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Get ready: County fair is next week

With the 77th Northwest Water Carnival heading into its final weekend, preparations are shifting into high gear for the Becker County Fair, which starts Wednesday, July 25 in Detroit Lakes.

Continuing through Saturday, July 28, the 121st annual fair will be jam packed with a blend of new and familiar activities.

But what many visitors will notice first is that the fair has a new look this year, says Fair Board President Bob Sonnenberg.

"The 4-H kitchen has all been repainted, and new fans were put in," he says. "Our exhibit building has had a complete facelift inside, with a new paint job, new cabinets and tables ... practically everything inside is new, or newly painted.

"The outside of the children's barn has been repainted, and the stalls in the cattle barn have all been painted too," he added. "We've kept the paint stores in business."

Something else that's new this year is that the Miss Becker County and Junior Miss Becker County pageants have been moved from Wednesday to Thursday night, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the grandstand.

"We decided to go with just three nights of entertainment, and not do anything in the grandstand on Wednesday night," Sonnenberg said.

What visitors to the fair on Wednesday night can expect, however, is a really good deal on the midway rides.

"We'll have a really good carnival promotion that night," Sonnenberg said. "If you bring in two canned goods, you can purchase an armband for $15."

Normally, it takes four tickets for the larger carnival rides, with each ticket costing $1 -- but with an armband, there is no limit to the number of rides a person can take, Sonnenberg explained.

"It's unlimited rides with an armband, and that's from 5 p.m. until closing," he said. "Then on Thursday, three canned goods will buy three armbands for $30, with unlimited rides from 1 to 5 p.m."

On Friday, armbands will still be just $22 each, with unlimited rides from 1 to 5 p.m.

There will also be live entertainment every afternoon and evening under the Big Tent -- and all of it's free, Sonnenberg said.

"On Wednesday we have George of the Juggle, who is a juggler," Sonnenberg said, adding that he will perform at 2, 4 and 6 p.m.

"Danny Holt will perform that evening (at 7:15 p.m.)."

Also on Wednesday, there will be bingo starting at 2 p.m., the midway opens at 5 p.m., and there will be a llama show in the Foltz Arena at 7 p.m.

Thursday is Senior Citizens Day at the fair, with the new Becker County Outstanding Seniors to be chosen in a 1:15 p.m. ceremony under the big tent.

Lamb, sheep, goat, swine and beef shows are scheduled in Foltz Arena throughout the morning and afternoon, and there will be pony rides near the children's barn.

Bingo starts at 11 a.m., the midway opens at 1 p.m., and there will be live entertainment by Bill & Janice under the big tent at 2, 4 and 7:30 p.m.

"They will be performing old-time music," Sonnenberg said.

One of the fair's premier events, the pageant to choose a new Miss Becker County and Miss Teen Becker County, gets underway in the grandstand starting at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, July 27 is Kids Day at the fair, with more pony rides starting at 11 a.m., the midway opening at 1 p.m., and 1½ hours of kids games under the big tent starting at 1:45 p.m. There will also be a 4-H Day Camp in the exhibit building from 1 to 4 p.m., and ventriloquist James Wedgewood will give three shows under the big tent at 1, 3:30 and 4:30 p.m.

Beef, dairy, goat and horse shows take place at Foltz Arena throughout the day, and in the evening, musician Mike Hokanson performs under the big tent at 7:45 p.m.

The big event of the evening is the Demolition Derby, featuring stock cars and minivans, which starts at 7 p.m. in the grandstand.

The fair winds down on Saturday, July 28 with Family Day activities, with the Market Auction Bidders Breakfast starting at 7:30 a.m. There will be a Round Robin Showmanship Contest in Foltz Arena starting at 8:30 a.m., followed by the Market Livestock Auction at 9 a.m.

Bingo and pony rides both open at 11 a.m., with the midway following at 1 p.m.

The 4-H Fashion Revue starts at 12:30 p.m. under the big tent, to be followed by the 4-H Horse fun Show in the Horse Arena at 1 p.m.

Magician Jerry Frasier performs under the big tent at 2, 3:30 and 4:45 p.m., and the 4-H Arts-In and Share-the-Fun also takes place under the big tent starting at 3 p.m.

In the evening, the big tent will host the Fair Builder, King Agassiz and Century Farm awards programs, starting at 6 p.m., and singer-musician Tim Eggebraaten will follow them with a live show at 7:30 p.m.

The evening's entertainment concludes with a second night of demolition derby action in the grandstand, this time featuring pickups and 4-cylinder vehicles. The derby gets underway at 7 p.m.

Each evening, Wednesday through Saturday under the big tent, there will be a fair button prize drawing.

"It's $2 per button, and there are 30 different prizes given away each night," Sonnenberg said. "The biggest one is the chance to win WE Fest VIP tickets."

Besides the midway, there will also be plenty of food, courtesy of Hansen's Amusement Foods out of Fergus Falls.

"They have the exclusive contract again this year," Sonnenberg said. "They have wonderful food, and they usually bring at least 8 to 10 different booths."

The number of booth vendors in Freeman Arena is also up this year, and "the carnival is supposed to have at least two or three new rides."

In short, Sonnenberg added, "It looks like it's shaping up to be some real good entertainment this year. We have more exhibits, more livestock, more poultry than last year -- it all makes for a better fair."

Of course, he pointed out, weather is always a major factor in the success of the fair each year -- whether it's too hot, or too rainy, it can have a significant effect on attendance.

"We've got one big job left, and that's to talk to the boys upstairs and ask for good weather," he joked. "We've got a lot of talking to do."

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454