County Fair looks to buck the trendWashington County Fair organizers want to show that their annual event is not just for the young and old.
By: Scott Wente, Woodbury Bulletin
Washington County Fair organizers want to show that their annual event is not just for the young and old.
The fair board is trying to attract more middle-aged adults to the five-day event at the fairgrounds in Lake Elmo. The strategy for drawing that crowd to this year’s fair – which begins Wednesday, Aug. 3 and concludes Sunday, Aug. 7 – includes scheduling a bull-riding show for the first time in the fair's history.
“We've talked to a couple other counties that did it and said it went over pretty well, so we're going to give it a go,” said Dan Dolan, the fair board president and a Woodbury resident.
Experienced bull riders from around the Midwest will be the main entertainment Friday night. There is admission to the show, which will look a lot like televised Professional Bull Riders events, Dolan said.
“It’s exactly what you see on TV,” he said, but it will not have top national talent.
Bull riders will draw for their animal before attempting to ride for eight seconds. If they hang on that long, they've still got to jump off and clear the bull, Dolan said. Rodeo clowns will distract the bulls – and entertain the crowd.
“It should bring some action,” he said. “We’re trying to appeal to that 25-to-35 age bracket because our demographics say we get a lot of kids and a lot of senior adults but that middle age group” is not as prevalent among fair attendees.
Other new events this year include family-friendly concerts and dancing shows, a drumming demonstration, variety shows, a church service, a car show and a pie-eating contest. (The full list of fair events is at www.washingtoncountyfair.org.)
Of course, some people head to the fair simply for the food and beverages, whether deep-fried, sweet or served on a stick. There will be plenty of it again this year as the fair sold out all of its food vendor spaces.
The Washington County 4-H program is the lifeblood of the fair, and 4-H youths from throughout the county will be at the fair so judges can critique their farm animals, artwork and other projects and talents.
Participation in 4-H is down this year as families are watching their finances, Dolan said. There were 565 members last year. There are 530 signed up in 2011.
“The economy's hitting us a little bit, but that's OK,” he said.
The 4-H program remains visible at the fair. Eight of 12 fair buildings are dedicated to 4-H activities. The program again this year will offer meals in Hooley Hall. Last year the 4-H group offered healthier menu items that emphasized locally grown meat and produce.
That drew mixed responses.
“It did OK but we had a lot of people that said, ‘I didn’t come to the fair for this,’” Dolan said of the healthier options.
This year’s Hooley Hall menu will be more traditional and should please to the meat-and-potatoes crowd.
Organizers are hoping for a good turnout for this year’s fair, after poor weather conditions caused a dip in attendance last year. Attendance was about 52,000 in 2009, but fell to around 49,000 in 2010.
“If we get the weather, we get the people,” Dolan said. “It’s that simple.”