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Posted 7/18/12 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

How do you measure the success of a county fair?
Is it the number of 4-H entries and Open Class exhibits or the amount of money that the 4-H animals bring at the sale? Is it the variety of free events and entertainment that the fair offers or a rodeo or demolition derby? Or is it having a quality carnival?
Obviously, the answer to the question of what makes a fair a success is a combination of all of the above. And this year’s McKenzie County Fair had everything that was needed to make it a success.
But the key ingredient to this year’s fair, and what has been lacking for several years, has been a quality carnival. And having an excellent carnival turned what could have been just another “ho-hum” event into a county fair that had people coming back day after day and night after night.
To be honest, I have been a little bit critical of the county fair in the past. While I always was in agreement that it is important for the 4-H youth in our county to have the opportunity to show off their projects, the county fair needed to be more than just that. And it needed to be more than a place to hold a 4-H Livestock Sale or have a demolition derby or a rodeo. Each of those events could have been held at any time over the course of the summer and would have drawn a respectable crowd. But even when combined, I questioned whether or not these events were sufficient to really call our county fair a “fair.”
What was always lacking in the years past was the magic, the lights and the sounds that only a carnival and a midway can bring to a fair.
And that magic which truly helps make a fair a fair was at the McKenzie County Fair this year. Obviously, it wasn’t the kind of carnival and midway that one would expect to see at the North Dakota State Fair or at a larger county. But by golly, it was still a very good carnival with an assortment of rides and midway games that could, and did, entertain people of all ages.
And even in spite of some rain and threatening clouds, the carnival’s magic worked each and every day of the fair and played a big part in driving this year’s fair attendance to record numbers and making this year’s fair the success that it was.
So to the McKenzie County Fair Board that went out on a limb by paying $10,000 just to have Funtime Carnival agree to come to the McKenzie County Fair, your investment was well worth the cost.