Extension officials eye an earlier state fair date

Extension officials eye an earlier state fair date by M. Jill Sundstrom Clay County Extension educators do not foresee any problems locally if the dates of the South Dakota State Fair are changed to the first week in August.

Hoping to increase attendance, the South Dakota State Fair Commission is considering a change in the fair�s dates, starting in 2000. The fair has traditionally been held in late August and early September, concluding on Labor Day. The commission is expected to vote March 22 on the proposal.

Extension educators say they�ll find a way to make it work for 4-H exhibitors if the South Dakota State Fair is held earlier in summer.

Competition at county fairs and 4-H achievement days usually determines which items advance to the state fair in Huron.

�We talked about it during our last Clay County Fair Board meeting on March 4,� said Ron Thaden, Extension educator � agronomy. �In order to follow the same sequence as far as 4-H goes, the county fairs would have to be scheduled ahead of the state fair. That�s what we�d be considering � moving our fair at least two weeks earlier.�

Some exhibits may have to change, he added, such as horticulture.

�Four-H�ers wouldn�t be able to exhibit some of the later vegetables, but earlier varieties would then be on the exhibit list,� Thaden said. �There would also be a little adjustment in the livestock, too. The kids would have to select animals that are born sooner so they are ready for exhibit.�

Fair dates aren�t the only calendar issue to consider if the state fair is changed. Judging schools and Youth In Action activities would have to be juggled around as well.

�There may also be a challenge in finding judges if a lot of county fairs are held at the same time,� Thaden said. �And at least for the first year, entertainment and the carnival may be hard to schedule because they�re sometimes booked two years in advance.�

In the long run, however, Thaden and Virginia Delvaux, Extension educator � youth development/4-H, view the potential state fair shift as a positive move. The possibility of cooler July weather, compared to August, is a plus, and participation may increase.

�If the state fair is moved, we anticipate more youth and families will participate because there won�t be a conflict with school activities,� Thaden said. �Those who used to shuttle back and forth due to activity scheduling could just stay at the fair and those who chose not to go at all may resume going to Huron.�

He added that he anticipates that families would work around a new Clay County Fair schedule, even if they are involved in city recreation or have earlier summer farm work to do.

Regardless of the State Fair Commission�s decision, Thaden and Delvaux are pleased with the participation in the Clay County Fair in recent years.

�Over the last five years, our participation has increased,� Delvaux said. �Kids can enter so many more things � there are over 70 different 4-H project levels � so that gives the kids a lot of things to choose from.�

Attendance has remained steady as well, Thaden added.

�The only time we saw a decrease was when we didn�t have a carnival,� he said.

For now, Clay County officials will wait for the State Fair Commission to make its decision before acting at the local level. The issue is on their minds, but it�s not creating a problem.

�As long as they�re giving us this much leeway to adjust our scheduling, I don�t see any problems,� Delvaux said. �We may have to do some creative thinking, but nothing is set in stone.

�If we do have to change, we have to view it as a positive,� she added. �If it doesn�t work, we can always change it again. But we�ll just have to work with it rather than against it.�

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