Officials: Fair was a smooth ride

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By Walt Reichert

Tacking three extra days onto this year's Shelby County Fair was, for the most part, a good move, fair officials said.

"Several board members didn't think it would work," fair board secretary/treasurer Jeff Hagerman said. "But a lot of people (at the fair) were very supportive. It was a lot more relaxed atmosphere."

Three extra days were added to the fair's normal six-day run this year. On those days - June 12-14 - the fair board scheduled the tractor and truck pulls. Hagerman said participants in the tractor and truck pulls as well as the county fair horse show - on June 18-21 - were happy with the move.

"They were glad not to be running into each other," Hagerman said. "It also made it safer for the (horse) riders."

Hagerman said the board will keep the extra three days for next year's fair.

Extension Agent for 4-H Regina Browning said the change this year was also a good move for the livestock exhibitors because it reduced traffic congestion near the ag pavilion.

"This was one of the least stressful fairs we've been involved in," Browning said. "There wasn't the fussing and complaining we often hear. I think the weather probably helped that, too."

The weather, while good for most of the fair's run, probably did cut into attendance figures. With storms threatening on Friday, June 12, officials canceled the tractor/truck pull and closed the grounds about 8:30 p.m. Attendance that night was under 300, a night that should have had a large attendance, Hagerman said.

"If it hadn't been for that Friday night being down, this would have been the second largest fair ever," Hagerman said.

As it was, the fair attracted about 12,500, making it the third largest fair ever, Hagerman said. Last year's fair, the largest ever, attracted 15,500, he said.

Fewer animals, exhibits

Livestock and horse show exhibitors were down slightly this year, fair officials said. Scheduling conflicts with other shows may have been the cause, they said.

Hagerman said the horse show was scheduled at the same time as a horse show in Springfield, Ill., which attracts several local stables.

"That's a huge show, and I know we had four to six barns that normally come here that went there," Hagerman said. He said the Springfield show is not normally held at the same time as the fair's horse show, and he hoped next year the schedule will not conflict.

Browning said the numbers of beef cattle shown at the fair were down some too, also because of a large national show nearby. The numbers of other exhibits - swine, dairy, sheep, rabbits and poultry - were on par with last year, she said.

Exhibits from 4-H and FFA youth in Floral Hall were also steady this year, Browning said. But Lucy Long, who is in charge of open exhibits in Floral Hall said the numbers were down slightly.

"It rained hard all day Monday (when exhibits are entered), and that may have been the reason," she said.

But Long agreed with Hagerman and Browning that the fair went well.

"It was just very smooth," she said.