Becker County Fair opens Wednesday in Detroit Lakes

The Becker County Fair returns to the fairgrounds in Detroit Lakes this Wednesday, July 28 for a four-day run. The carnival midway will be bigger than ever, and most exhibit and livestock buildings are expected to be filled to near or full capacity.

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The Becker County Fair returns to the fairgrounds in Detroit Lakes this Wednesday, July 28 and continues through Saturday, July 31. The carnival midway opens at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and 1 p.m. on the remaining days. (Tribune File Photo)

It's been two years since the Becker County Fairgrounds in Detroit Lakes have been put to their expected use, which means that getting the grounds back in shape has been a bit more work than usual.

"We've got multiple water line breaks," said Fair Manager Keith Sonnenberg.

And with the grounds all but empty last summer, the Fair Board also took the opportunity to do some improvements around the grounds.

"We have a new cement slab in the area near the Children's Barn and the DNR building," Sonnenberg said. "It can be used for any kind of demonstrations."

There are also new cement slabs in front of the hog and sheep areas at the livestock barns.


"We've done a lot of cement work over the past couple of years," Sonnenberg said, adding that the Fair Board is constantly looking for ways to make improvements to the fairgrounds and various fair events.

With that in mind, a "new" event has been added to the schedule this year: The Truck and Tractor Pull, scheduled for Thursday, July 29, at the grandstand.

"We haven't had one during the fair in the last 10-12 years," Sonnenberg said, adding that the organization behind the event had given them "a better offer" than in years past.

Other grandstand events include the April Stenger Memorial Volleyball Tournament on Wednesday; Automotive Barrel Racing and Demolition Derby (chain compact cars, chain/go trucks and vehicles of 1980s vintage and newer) on Thursday; and a second, full night of Demolition Derby action on Saturday. All grandstand events start at 7 p.m. Admission is free for the volleyball tournament; tickets for the other three grandstand events are $10 for adults and $5 for kids age 12 and younger.

"We try to keep it affordable for everybody," Sonnenberg said.

The Fair Board is also bringing back button drawings this year; anyone who purchases a fair button for $2 is eligible to come to the Big Tent at 9:45 p.m. each night and participate in the prize drawings. Winners from each previous night can also come back on Saturday for the grand prize drawing, where WE Fest VIP tickets will be up for grabs.

"They have a one in six chance of winning (the WE Fest tickets)," said Sonnenberg.

One thing that has gone up slightly is the fee for parking on the fairgrounds; it is $5 per day instead of $3 as in years past.


"Parking (on the grounds) is more limited than ever," Sonnenberg explained, due to the fact that the carnival midway has expanded somewhat. Parking on the streets surrounding the fairgrounds continues to be free, however.

Speaking of the midway, Amusement Attractions will have all of the familiar rides and games — plus a few new ones — up and running by Wednesday evening.

"The Midway will be open at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and 1 p.m. on the other three days," Sonnenberg said, adding that Amusement Attractions has been running carnival midways in Minnesota for about five weeks now, and he was told attendance is "way up" compared to 2019, the last time they were able to make the trip from Florida for the fair season.

Armband admission will be open from 5 p.m. to close on Wednesday, and 1-5 p.m. on the other three days, with armband holders entitled to unlimited rides during those times. Cost of the armbands is $30 each, with a couple of exceptions.

"We will be doing our Food Pantry specials," Sonnenberg said, adding that each person who brings in two nonperishable food items for the Becker County Food Pantry on Wednesday night can purchase an armband for $20.

On Friday, those who bring in three nonperishable Food Pantry items between 1-5 p.m. can purchase three armbands for $45, but must purchase at least three armbands to be eligible for the discount.

The midway will be open until approximately midnight each day, but armbands will only be good during the specified times. Individual ride tickets must be purchased during other times, or by those who do not have armbands. Though ATM machines will still be available on site, credit cards will also be accepted at midway attractions this year.

The 4-H, FFA and open class exhibits, including the livestock barns, will open to the public at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, though some livestock shows will be held earlier in the day. The barns and exhibit buildings will open to the public at 11 a.m. on the remaining days, though judging starts at 8 a.m. daily.


Wednesday is Entry Day for the open class exhibits; anyone with an art, craft or other hobby entry that they'd like to show off can enter them for exhibit anytime between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., Sonnenberg said.

There will also be live entertainment under the Big Tent every day, starting at 1 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, and noon Thursday and Saturday. The Becker County Outstanding Senior Citizen program will begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday, with Mary Kessler, Sally Hausken and Arthur Bakker as this year's nominees.

The full Big Tent schedule is as follows:

  • Wednesday, July 28: Magician Kenny Ahern at 1, 3 and 5 p.m.; Retro Cowboy (Kim Softing and Kris Frost), 7 p.m.; button drawing, 9:45 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 29: Accordion player Ethel May Duenow, noon; Outstanding Senior Citizen program, 1 p.m.; entertainer Pop Wagner, 1:30, 3:15 and 5 p.m.; Tim Eggebraaten, 7 p.m.; button drawing, 9:45 p.m.
  • Friday, July 30: Paul Bunyan program by David Ward at 1, 4 and 5:15 p.m.; children's games (behind the fair office), 2 p.m.; the Haymakers, 7 p.m.; button drawing, 9:45 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 31: 4-H Fashion Revue, 12 p.m.; ventriloquist David Malmberg, 1:30, 3:30 and 5 p.m.; 4-H Performing Arts Show, 2:30 p.m.; Red River Valley Emerging Leaders, Fair Builder and Century Farmer awards program, 6 p.m.; Mike Hokanson, 7 p.m.; button drawings, 9:45 p.m.

As always, Kent Freeman Arena will also be open to commercial exhibitors throughout the fair; Sonnenberg said that there has been "an awful lot of interest this year" from potential exhibitors. In fact, he added, they anticipate that all of the exhibit categories will have "as much or more entries" as they have drawn in previous years, from livestock to open class to commercial.
Also back this year will be the Tractor Parade, which departs from Adkins Equipment at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 31 and ends at the fairgrounds around noon.

"Everything is pretty much back to normal," Sonnenberg said.

One thing that won't be happening this year, however, is the Miss Becker County Fair Pageant; Sonnenberg noted that with so many COVID-19 safety restrictions continuing until May, they simply weren't able to do their usual pre-pageant recruiting rounds at area schools, and felt it might be better to delay that event's return for another year.

For more information, as well as a complete fair event schedule, visit . You can also check out the fair's Facebook page for any last-minute scheduling changes and event updates.

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