Summer is over. Our annual State Fair is behind us, and everyone wants to know how it went. Although the summer has been tough, the fair was great – possibly the most enjoyable one I ever attended.
The people were happy.� Everyone seemed to be having a great time. Many made favorable comments about the improved timing of the fair, which ended on Labor Day.
It rained some, but none complained about rain after the long, hot, dry summer we endured. One grandstand show was rained out, but luckily we had rain insurance. It takes some faith to buy rain insurance for a normally low-moisture time like late August in the middle of a drought.
The Dakota Flavor Marketplace, which featured only South Dakota products, was a great success. At times there were waiting lines for people wanting to get to those products.
Numerous open class competitions among livestock producers had more participants. We don't yet know if 4-H exhibits increased – last year the number was 9,637.
I also cannot yet give you things like attendance numbers or revenue numbers, but some vendors told me they did very well. One vendor said he had the best day ever at the fair.�
I question the value of things like attendance numbers, because we all know that primarily rural people attend state fairs in the Midwest, and attendance by them has been declining because rural population has been in decline for many years. I am not sure total attendance tells us much about the social worth of a state fair.�
State fairs originated in this part of the country as an organized effort to promote agriculture and rural life.� The entertainment and festival aspects grew as money making devices, and for a time – when people had very little other formal entertainment – it boomed at fairs and drew big crowds.�
Some people say those days are over because people now have easy access to many other forms of formal entertainment, including satellite and cable television, VCRs, CDs and live concerts in nearby cities.
This year we greatly reduced our spending on the entertainment aspect and tried to focus on promoting the real core values of the fair like 4-H, FFA, agricultural product promotion, and improved prizes in the open class competitions.�We also made a special effort to show appreciation of those who have shown extraordinary dedication to the State Fair.
I was honored to rename a street in honor of the fair's long-time performer/friend, Sherwin Linton.�What was "Machinery Road" is now "Cotton King Avenue," commemorating a name from one of Sherwin's biggest hits as well as the name of his band.
We also created "The Bob Duxbury Award" for Bob's many years of dedicated service to the State Fair, 4-H and the state of South Dakota.� He received a plaque and a lifetime pass to the fair.� From now on, each year another worthy recipient will receive "The Bob Duxbury Award" and a lifetime pass to the fair.
For several years, the South Dakota State Fair was known as "The Big One." In the future, the fair may not be "The Big One," but it will continue to be "the best one." What a great way to say farewell to summer!�����