Fair comes back to lifeAfter being on life support for the past few years, the Lake County Fair may have finally turned the corner in becoming a more viable summer entertainment option in the area.
After being on life support for the past few years, the Lake County Fair may have finally turned the corner in becoming a more viable summer entertainment option in the area.
“Our attendance was quite a bit up from last year,” said Joanne Swensen, co-manager of the fair. She said there aren’t exact attendance figures available, but said there were more than 1,000 paid admissions Saturday.
She credited much of the success to advertising in newspapers, TV and radio. Duluth radio station Mix 108 did a live broadcast Saturday. The Lake County Board of Commissioners also helped out the fair by agreeing to spend about $8,000 more a year on the fair which now gets about $21,000 a year.
New attractions brought in customers, Swensen said, such as the mechanical bull riding tournament, which is expected to be back next year.
After a steady decline in the mid-1990s, the death of the fair seemed imminent after it failed to get a carnival in 2007 after the regular operator was killed in a motorcycle accident.
“It did hurt us,” Swensen said. “It was a struggle getting [one] here.”
The carnival returned for the 100-year anniversary of the fair in 2008.
The fair now uses Gopher State Expositions, one of the largest in the country, but it only brings a small portion of its rides to Lake County.
Competition has been another force behind the declining fair. Swensen said an effort has been made to schedule around other fairs and big events in the region
“We’re on an off-weekend,” Swensen said. “That has made a huge difference.”
Swenson said fewer families come out to enjoy the fair. That could be changing when looking at increasing 4-H participation, said Tracey Anderson, coordinator for Lake County’s 4-H. She said 4-H membership in the area is up to 122 from 91 just five years ago.
“One of the things is an after-school club,” she said as why participation numbers are growing. She said the program has been much more consistent the last five years and they are “listening to our youth and what they want to do.”
The group could grow even more this school year. With Fridays off, students will need to find some sort of an activity. Anderson said Minnesota’s statewide 4-H is trying to get more kids involved by having programs revolve around ever-changing technology.
Other reasons for joining 4-H are simpler.
“I like how you can do anything in the fair,” said Jessie Juenemann, age 12. “It’s really fun and you can get a blue ribbon.”