Clay County Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons is hoping that all the countless hours of planning and preparation will transform into a “good time” for fairgoers Sept. 7-15.
“We are focused on the number one reason for the Clay County Fair – family time. We want to make time stand still and give fairgoers an experience that they will think about for the rest of their life,” said Parsons, who will oversee his eighth fair this year.
Although the list of improvements is long, Parsons outlined nine new things for fairgoers this year:
911 memorial tribute
A national traveling exhibit that is housed in a 53 foot semi trailer that turns into a 1,000 square foot exhibit.
This exhibit is manned by two retired New York City firefighters who were part of the 911 rescue effort.
Tiny town located in Centennial Plaza
This is an interactive play area for the smallest Clay County fairgoers. Little playhouses are on grass surface for when the tiniest ones need a break. The Family Place provides a quiet place to rest.
Youth admission is now free
Those 12 and under will be admitted free all nine days. Parsons said this change will encourage families to come to the fair and will assist fairgoers in a rough, tough economy.
“The ag economy is not as good as it could be. The ag economy is a dynamic part of who we are. So kids, 12 and under, are free everyday, every second of the Clay County Fair,” Parsons said.
Parsons said that there will be more than 5,000 head of livestock on the grounds during the nine day run. There are increased premiums and new classes.
“The Supreme Beef Show, on the last day of the fair Sept. 15, will bring back all the breed champions. The clay County Fair Dairy Show has been expanded and we have added a youth show and youth showmanship contest.
“There are 29 new riding classes and several fun classes for draft horses that have been added. Persons can compete for $10,000 in the North American Classic six-horse hitch series. We are looking to get more youth involved at with livestock at the fair,” Parsons said.
Since 2016, the Clay County Fair has made $1.6 million in improvements. Some new projects this year in the $250,000 budget include the installation of sidewalks, renovations to the restrooms, Centennial Plaza Phase 3, $30,000 in new asphalt, gutters and work on the commercial exhibits building exterior.
“We want families to stay longer. By staying longer that might mean one more bag of mini donuts, one more lemonade or one more carnival ride,” Parsons said.
Fairgoers will see increased security. Bags will be checked at all events and there will be beer sales at selected events.
Among the fun dirt events planned are Muttin’ Bustin’ on Friday, Sept. 13, which provides kids a chance to ride a sheep for 18 seconds. The Outlaw Season Championship Truck and Tractor Pull on Sunday, Sept. 15 will be the organization’s season championship, which is expected to bring a large number of tractors to the fair. The Big ATV Air Tour on Thursday, Sept. 12, will feature various ATVs flying off 80-foot ramps in front of the grandstand.
“And it is one last ride for the chuck wagons on both Saturday, Sept. 7 and Sunday, Sept. 8, as they appear in front of the grandstand both days beginning at 12 noon,” Parsons said.
A new program, “Bite by the Barn,” will show adults where their food comes from as well as providing samples from local producers. Parsons said it will be an “agciting adventure for adults.”
“We want to connect people to agriculture. We have a new ambassador program also where youth fairgoers will educate older fairgoers about livestock and static exhibits through social media. We think people need to understand where their food comes from,” Parsons said.
In the entertainment department, Parsons said tickets for Foreigner are selling “hot” with Jon Pardi tickets selling well.
This year, the Clay County Fair will offer $200,000 in free entertainment and a new homegrown talent series. Performing in front of the grandstand will be Foreigner, Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles, Country Gold Tour, Michael W. Smith, Jon Pardi and Maddie Poppe as well as the IMCA Blue Ribbon Showdown, ATV Big Air Tour and the truck and tractor pull.
More than 50 food vendors will be on hand to feed fairgoers.
Nearly $100,000 in awards, premiums, ribbons and trophies will be given to exhibitors in various contest.
There are 13 new food contests in the oven/baking product area and more than 500 vendors throughout the grounds.
The Clay County Fair still boasts of having the largest farm machinery and ag equipment show at any fair in the U.S.