Montana Fair

Fair entrants win prizes and ribbons for their entries, including this wool entry.

BILLINGS, Mont.– For more than a hundred years, the Montana Fair has attracted visitors from all over the state to the premier agricultural and entertainment fair of the summer, the Montana Fair.

The Montana Fair runs from Friday, Aug. 9 through Saturday, Aug. 17, with more than 250,000 people expected to enter the gates of the fairgrounds at some time during the week.

The Montana Fair is known for its agricultural displays and All Breeds Cattle Shows, PRCA rodeo and motocross action, fun events, concerts, music, dancing, and comedy - in other words - something for every member of the family.

Gates open at noon, with the carnival operating from noon to midnight. Free admission and rodeo tickets are offered to veterans and emergency responders.

Visitors can walk through the long barns filled with all kinds of 4-H projects and FFA shows, from live animal shows to special exhibits, with breed shows and lots awards handed out at the fair.

“Come and see what our 4-H youth have to offer. The Montana Fair is their opportunity to show off the projects they have been working on all year, and the work and learning they have accomplished is amazing to see,” said Roni Baker, Yellowstone County 4-H/youth Extension agent.  “Exhibitors spend hours and hours getting ready for fair – from leather craft and woodworking to their steers and chickens. We’ll you at the fair.” 

Nearly 10,000 kids and adults will earn cash and ribbons for their fair entries, which range from bunnies, crocheting, horticulture, horses, cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, petit-point, pickles, sewing quilts and wool projects, to arts and crafts – and much more.

For nine days (plus the 4-H/FFA Horse Show on Aug. 8), the fairgrounds will be filled with the colorful sights of the carnival and games, and the wonderful smells of delicious specialty foods and baked goodies, such as Bourbon Chicken Skewers, Mountain Mud drinks, ‘Vikings On a Stick’, fresh lemonade, Taste of Asia and Montana’s own Brockel’s Chocolates.

The feel of agriculture is everywhere at the fair – from the barns filled with live animals to the farm and ranch businesses that come from near and far.

In the Ag Building and throughout the fair, agricultural businesses, from seed companies to chemical sales to farm and ranch equipment will have displays. People have visited these displays for decades – even in the early days when the Montana Fair was known as the Midland Empire Fair.

Montana and Wyoming producers have a chance to enter their crops into the Open Crops Division. Barley, Wheat, Triticale, Sugarbeets, Beans, Sunflower, Mustard and Flax are some of the crops that can be entered for prizes.

Hay producers often bring their alfalfa and grass hay for the forage hay entries, and their corn or sudan grass silage for the silage entries.

Even the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming get in the fun. They will be hosting a special fund-raising food booth, so be sure and stop by, have good eats and support youth.

The Thomas Carnival operates the Midway featuring rides and games. A shady park for kid’s rides accommodates families and the free Kid’s World exhibit nearby has free games, activities, and a petting zoo for small children.

The fair will have three main concerts, and lots of free entertainment down the Midway and at the Community Stage.

Many exhibit buildings have showing and judging activities happening earlier than regular fair hours – as early as 7 a.m. Check for times that buildings are open:

Exhibit Hall: Noon – 9 p.m., Youth Art and Explorium.

Expo Center: Noon – 9 p.m., Livestock Shows and 4-H Exhibits.

Montana Pavilion: Noon – 11 p.m., Heritage Arts and Montana Fair Marketplace.

4-H Building: Noon – 9 p.m., Special Exhibit.

Ag Building: Noon – 9 p.m., FFA Activities and Exhibits

Cedar Hall: Noon – 9 p.m., Fine Arts

Concerts in evening

Everyone looks forward to concerts, and the Montana Fair always brings in the very best musical entertainment to the First Interstate Arena stage.

The Triple Threat concert features Blackhawk, Restless Heart and Shenandoah. Fans will want to be at the fairgrounds’ stage on Aug. 9 at 7 p.m.

An Evening with 98 degrees plays on Aug. 10 at 7 p.m., while Old Dominion plays on Aug. 11 at 7 p.m.

Dirt events

Excitement abounds in the MetraPark grandstands Aug 13, at 6 p.m., when motorcycle athletes perform on their cycles.

Supercross continues to be one of the most physically-demanding sports there is, and these professional athletes will punch out lap after lap of serious 30-foot air jumps, whoop sections, double and triple jumps, 100 feet long jumps, rhythm sections, roller sections and a challenging array of other technical Supercross-style track conditions.

Pro rodeo action

The Yellowstone River Roundup PRCA Rodeo event runs Thursday, Aug. 15 through Saturday, Aug. 17, at 7 p.m., in the grandstands.

The rodeo has grown to include some of the best rodeo cowboys in the nation today. Many of the top 10 cowboys in the nation will be at the YRR.

The Roundup has been honored by the PRCA and WPRCA for continued improvements and the condition of the rodeo grounds.

In 2010, the Montana Fair moved the fair rodeo to the Northern Hotel Grandstands, renamed the event, changed the affiliation to PRCA, and benefitted from the addition of the Cowboy Club as a booster organization for the event. The result is a rodeo that is now one of the top 50 events in the nation.

Community Stage free entertainment

As soon as visitors enter the gate, they can see and watch fabulous, local talent on the Community Stage.

The Community Stage showcases local and regional talent at the fair. Acts take center stage in half-hour time slots. Music, magic, singing, dancing and comedy are just a few of the talents on the Community Stage.

Other free entertainment includes Roberto the Magnificent, who will be here from Aug. 10-11 only, for three performances a day.

Jeff Martin, a magician, will stroll down the midway, performing for kids and adults.

“We love to make people laugh,” Jeff Martin said. “In a time of turmoil and uncertainty, our show lets you step-away from all the ‘stuff’ out there and just remember what it’s like to be a family and be together doing something fun, like going to a fair and sharing some cotton candy and watching a magic show.”

If watching people perform and walk around on wooden stilts sounds fun, check out Animal Cracker Conspiracy performing on traditional “echasse” peg stilts, strolling the fairgrounds every day.

Also free, catch the highly-skilled physical comedy circus show called “Mango and Dango” about the trials and tribulations of unrequited love, seen through the hearts and eyes of two clowns.

The Rock Bottom Boys will be on the Exchange Club Patio, while the Kelly McDonald Band will be on Chiesa Plaza.

Fun lunch event

Have lunch Aug. 12-16 at the fair. Pay $5 at lunch at gate and from noon-2 p.m., participants can buy lunch from a dozen vendors from hot dogs to funnel cake. Enjoy your favorite fair food, and return to the gate by 2 p.m., and get your $5 back.

Montana Fair history

1916 was the start of something spectacular – it was the year of the first Midland Empire Fair.

The fair promised to have the finest agricultural, livestock and industrial exhibits ever seen – and it did. The Midland Empire Fair brought together communities from all over Montana and Northern Wyoming.

This allowed people to show off their projects they had been working on all year in hopes of winning a blue ribbon and some recognition.

With great excitement for this new endeavor, the fair board made special arrangements with the Northern Pacific Railroad to run a train from the depot to the fairgrounds. This arrangement gave special rates for riders of the train to travel back and forth from the fair to home.

With great success the fair continued to grow over the years but in 1919, it was bigger and even more elaborate than it had been. This 4th annual fair had several counties of Northern Wyoming involved in showing in exhibits and livestock. Wyoming recognized that the Midland Empire Fair was a great advertising tool in the northwest.

Midland Empire Fair housed the finest livestock in the region and people traveled from all over. Soon, Montana started becoming known as a state in which purebred livestock was a specialty. Not only were the exhibits and livestock but also the attractions of horseracing and rodeo. The annual horserace drew in thousands and the rodeo brought in cowboys from all over the nation. Both types of riders competed for the largest purses rewarded to winners.

The fair was a destination for exhibitors and a place where all the citizens from different counties could exchange helpful advice. They were able to discuss what worked for them and why as well as explain what didn’t work.

After having the name Midland Empire Fair for nearly 60 years, the fair board decided it was time for a name change and rebranded the fair as the Yellowstone Exhibition.

The Yellowstone Exhibition lasted about for about 14 years until transitioning in to the Montana Fair that we have today here at MetraPark. Although the name has changed, the event still stays true to the original mission of celebrating agriculture and education and has become the largest event in Montana.

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