Editor's note: This story is from our 2019 special section all about the Becker County Fair. To see the section in its entirety and learn more about the fair, click HERE.
It’s one of the most anticipated events of the summer.
From heart-racing rides to mouth-watering food, barns full of animals to tents full of entertainment, and kids games to ag awards, the fair encompasses everything a good community celebration should.
Now in its 126th year, the Becker County Fair is a time-honored tradition that takes place every summer at the fairgrounds in Detroit Lakes. Typically held in July, it’s happening later than usual this year, August 7-10.
Fair Board President Keith Sonnenberg said the later date was necessary in order to keep all the same great rides and concessions as before, without having the fair fall on the same busy weekend as WE Fest.
“The carnivals go from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and somehow everything got pushed back a week this year,” Sonnenberg says. “So we were a week later, which would have landed on WE Fest, so we moved back one more week.”
The later date may conflict with some kids’ schedules, such as those who are starting football practices, or are heading back to college, but Sonnenberg thinks the overall impact should be minimal.
“I’m hoping for a very good fair,” he says. “A nice, warm fair.”
This year’s fair will feature all the same rides, foods, games, exhibits and shows as always, plus some new additions. Sonnenberg says there’ll be a few extra rides for kids this year, as well as four or five additional games for people to play. There’ll be some new food options, as well, and at least as many 4-H exhibits as last year, if not more.
Also new this year will be the addition of live 4-H animal demonstrations, such as how to brush a horse. The demos are designed to help fairgoers learn more about farm animals and what it takes to care for them. 4-H organizers say they’re trying to find more ways for 4-H youth to interact with other fairgoers.
As always, there’ll be plenty of entertainment going on under the Big Tent and at the Grandstand, with live music, shows for kids, demo derbies, Becker County Sheriff K9 demonstrations, and lots more. There’ll be Automotive Barrel Racing, too — a new thing that fair organizers think will go over well here.
Taking place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 7 at the Grandstand, Automotive Barrel Racing is a lot like traditional barrel racing, but with automobiles instead of horses. There’ll be two or three barrels set up around the track, and vehicles will have to make multiple turns around the barrels, as fast as they can while being timed.
Different classes of vehicles will be racing, Sonnenberg says, including “some demo cars, people who bring their cars off the street… any kind of car. It’s at the demo derby track, a nice, flat track.”
He says the Fair Board heard about Automotive Barrel Racing after another fair in southern Minnesota tried it. They thought it’d be a good fit for the Becker County Fair, since there are always such big crowds at the demo derbies here. Most of the entries in the barrel races will be local.
“It’s definitely a brand new thing around here,” Sonnenberg says. “We’re not charging, it’s an open gate. So we’ll see how it goes.”
The fire department will be on hand in case of any vehicle fires or flips.
Other entertainment this year will include live music for all ages by local favorites Dan Holt, Mike Hokanson, Tim Eggebraaten, the Kris Frost and Kim Softing Band, Bruce Nelson, Ethel Duenow and the Minnesota-based 34th Infantry Division Band. For kids, there’s a stunt juggler, ventriloquist, and “George of the Jungle” shows.
The tractor parade will return for its 11th year, with this year’s featured tractor being the antique Massey-Harris tractors. The tractors will leave Adkin’s equipment, on Richwood Road, at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10, then head south on Richwood Road to Roosevelt Avenue before heading west on Willow and Rossman toward the fairgrounds. The tractors will return on the same route at about 2 p.m.
Those who like to win prizes won’t want to miss the nightly button drawings, happening under the Big Tent at 9:45 p.m. There will be cash prizes given away every night of the fair, plus prizes donated by local businesses, and Chamber Bucks. At the end of the fair, one grand prize winner will receive a VIP, 2-person WE Fest pass, valued at $1,100.
Also of note is the Inaugural April Stenger Memorial Volleyball Tournament, which will take place the evening of Thursday, Aug. 8, near the Horse Arena. There’s no charge to watch the tournament. Sonnenberg says there’ll be food vendors there selling beer, water, hamburgers and other foods.
The tournament is a charitable event in honor of April Stenger, a Frazee native who later lived in Lake Park. She was killed in a boat crash in 2015, at the age of 26.
There is no gate fee to get into the fair, and parking on the grounds is $3 (or free if you park on the street). Keeping things as affordable as possible is a goal of the Fair Board’s, Sonnenberg says. Other than a couple of the grandstand events, entertainment at the fair is all free.
Another goal of the fair is to help support the local food shelf. Discounted carnival rides are offered on certain days of the fair to people who bring nonperishable food items for donation.
Last year, Sonnenberg says, 5,300 pounds of food were donated, and “we’re trying to get at least that much again this year.”
The Becker County Fairgrounds are located at 1310 Rossman Avenue in Detroit Lakes, just two blocks north of Detroit Lake off West Lake Drive.