Fair ends on high note

Fair directors are lauding the 2014 Mille Lacs County Fair as a very good fair despite a dip in attendance.

Attendance at this year’s Mille Lacs County Fair, which debuted a new entrance fee system this year, was down by 500 to 1,000 persons over last year’s estimated attendance of 2,000, according to fair board president Frank Hartmann.

The Mille Lacs County fair board directors instituted a new admittance fee system this year that eliminated the longtime tradition of buying a button to get in. Last year a person could get in all four days with a $6 button, while this year’s admittance was $5 for one day, while a $10 wrist band was good for all four days.

Hartmann said the new admission structure had a minimal impact on attendance decreasing. The fair board directors instead talked about the competing events as factors – county fairs in both Benton and Morrison Counties – and a big threshing show near North Branch, he said.

Hartmann, in defense of the changed entrance fees, said the fair directors had to do something to counteract the increased costs of putting on the fair, including higher insurance, and the costs in getting vendors. Ever since the city built its new wastewater treatment plant, the monthly water and sewer rates for the fairgrounds have gotten higher as well, Hartmann noted.

Hartmann said that the fair board directors already talked after the fair about the new pricing system and will not abandon it or go back to selling buttons for entry. A problem with the button system is that people share the buttons, Hartmann said. The directors will be evaluating the amount of $10 and $5 wrist bands that were purchased and on what day they were bought, Hartmann said. He also noted that 4-H participants and their families received a big discount on their wristbands.

But it was a “very good fair,” Hartmann said the morning after it ended. Asked about what he thought were highlights, he mentioned the demolition derby, how the number of animals were up (there were 442 4-H animals, and 44 dairy and 75 beef cows in open class), and a successful BMX bicycle exhibition series.

The 4-H animal auction did well, raising more than $24,000, of which 20 percent goes to the county’s 4-H Federation and the rest to the cattle owners.

The food vendors did well but the carnival revenue was down, as were the sales in the commercial building, and the number of exhibits in open class garden and flowers. Most in the commercial building said they did OK, but the building had four vacant spots this year, Hartmann said.

The fair didn’t have an antique tractor display, senior citizens day, or a free meal on Sunday as it had in the past.

But there were many entertainment features that were free once in the fairgrounds, Hartmann noted.

A skills games like throwing hay or straw bales and pounding nails. The rain that began falling at about mid afternoon on Sunday cancelled that.


Results of different competitions

Open class beef

Zac Virnig, champion in female beef

Laura Stobb, champion in market beef

Open class dairy

Wyatt Kragt, champion in senior dairy cow

Carter Herbst, champion junior

Tractor pull winners

4500 antique – Duane Moos with a John Deere (JD) A

6500 antique – Josh Wilhelm with a JD G

3750 farm stock – Jake Wilhelm with an Allis Chalmers WC

5000 farm stock – Wade Hollister with a Farmall 460

7000 farm stock – Mark Kohnen with an IH 666

9000 farm stock – Mark Kohnen with an IH 966

10000 turbo farm stock – George Weidendorf with an IH 1066

12000 farm stock – Ben Ostrom with a 1466 International

16,500 farm stock – John Swanson with a JD 4455

18,000 Nick Kasper with JD 4440

Exhibition – Burton Bartz with a Massey Ferguson 8670

Demolition derby

Welded stock – Scott Svingen

Compact – Jeff Novitsky

Chain – Shane Huston

Full size – David Lange

Truck pull

Work class – Jeff Wifek

Street stock – Josh Dotseth

Diesel 4 x 4 – Zack Wifek