SPENCER, Iowa — When asked to “Come Home” to celebrate the Clay County Fair’s Centennial, fairgoers responded in record numbers.
Total estimated attendance for “The World’s Greatest County Fair,” held Sept. 9-17, was 335,670. (The previous all-time attendance record was set in 2013 with 334,575 guests.)
Weather was abnormally warm and sunny for the duration of the nine days with the exception of rain on Sept. 15 and Sept. 16.
“We were blessed with great weather,” said Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons. “When you take that weather, and mix it with great programming and improvements to the fairgrounds, you have the right recipe for a fantastic fair.”
Fairgoers were able to enjoy several activities and programs celebrating the Fair’s Centennial, including the straw sculpture “Farm Party,” the Centennial Mural Art project, the 4-H Barn Quilt Challenge, and the Centennial Historical Exhibit presented by Clay County Heritage and the Iowa Great Lakes Auto Club.
The Centennial celebration ended with the Centennial Birthday Bash in the Grandstand on Sunday, Sept. 17 when fairgoers were treated to a 200-voice high school choir, the Karl King Band, motor thrill acts, comedian C. Willi Myles, the human cannonball, local performers Jill Barr and Bill Lauritzen, juggler Sean Emery, and the largest fireworks display in Clay County history.
The Fair also had a new look with the opening of the new Tower Gate Pavilion located on the east side of the fairgrounds, and the remodeling of the Photography Center, Fields and Gardens Building, and the Ag Marketplace. The Family Place, located in the old Administration Building, was also introduced to assist fairgoers of all ages.
Six concerts and seven dirt event performances attracted 21,758 fairgoers to the U.S. Cellular Grandstand. The top attended performances included Old Dominion on Sept. 16 and Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone on Sept. 10.
“The World’s Greatest County Fair Food” Contest returned for its second year highlighting four of the 31 new foods introduced at the 2017 Fair. Chicken waffle on a stick (Waffle Chix) took home top prize for the best new food at the Fair, topping three other finalists including breakfast quesadillas (Regal Concessions), hot tenderloin sandwich (Terry Town Concessions) and Thanksgiving balls (Eat-it Concessions).
New foods represented only a fraction of the shopping experiences found at the 2017 Fair, which again boasted the largest farm machinery and agriculture equipment show at any fair in the United States. Nearly 500 vendors participated at the Fair. Winners of the commercial exhibits awards for best displays went to Okoboji Mercantile (best indoor exhibit), Sheldon Power (best outdoor exhibit) and The Branding Iron (best food/beverage concession).
Wild About Monkeys, The Britins, Country Roads, and Disc-Connected K-9’s packed bleachers and drew standing room only crowds. The Fair offered $180,000 in free entertainment at The Farmers Bank Stage, Northwest Bank Stage, Dish Plaza, and KICD Courtyard, plus numerous strolling acts.
The Events Center Ballroom hosted two first-time events, The Browns in concert on Sept. 11 and Curious George Live on Sept. 15.
Standing room crowds flocked to the Outdoor Arena for the Bull Riding Challenge on Sept. 10, which drew an estimated crowd of 1,800, and the finals of the North American Classic Six-Horse Hitch competition, which featured eight hitches competing for $10,000 in prize money.nm,tenderloin sandwich (Terry Town) and Thanksgiving balls (Eat-it Concessions).dmin
Other competitions gave fairgoers the opportunity to win ribbons, trophies, and more than $95,000 in premium money. Special Centennial contests were held in the Creative Culinary (fried chicken and potato salad), Farm Gadget (“guess the gadget”), and Textiles, Crafts, and Arts departments. Craft beer also made its competitive debut at the Fair.
A record was set in the Big Boar Contest when they winner weighed in at 1,176 lbs.
The Fair remained one of the largest 4-H and FFA showcases in the Midwest with more than 800 exhibitors from 42 counties participating in livestock and static competitions.
Utilizing the Fair as “Northwest Iowa’s Largest Classroom,” a record 1,465 third and fourth graders participated in ISU Extension Clay County’s Ag-Citing and Sci-Citing school field trip program throughout the week. Education about Iowa’s number one industry – agriculture – was center stage at Grandpa’s Barn, where fairgoers were educated through animals, crop plots and the tractor and combine simulators. The Ag Partners Discovery Stage also provided six interactive, educational shows per day on agriculture and music technology.
For the fourth year, the Fair’s employees and volunteers participated in the HERO program, which recognized employees who were helpful, enthusiastic, represented the Fair professionally and delivered outstanding service. Nine daily winners were selected with an overall “superhero” selected on Sept.17. The crew from the Family Place was selected as this year’s “superhero”.
More detailed information on the 2017 Clay County Fair will be made available at the Clay County Fair Association’s annual meeting on October 24. Lifetime memberships to the Fair Association are available for $100. Call (712) 580-3000 for more information.
The 2018 Clay County Fair will be held September 8-16 in Spencer, Iowa.
— Clay County Fair
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