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UPDATE 3:20 p.m: Two dead in crash on I-94 near Osakis

VIDEO: Douglas County Fair draws crowds of 48,000

Coby Schoumaker of Belgrade had a great time riding on the merry-go-round Friday afternoon at the Douglas County Fair. (Echo Press photo by Lowell Anderson)1 / 3
The Scrambler was one of the many spinning, twirling rides fairgoers enjoyed at the Douglas County Fair. (Echo Press photo by Lowell Anderson)2 / 3
Children hung on for dear life during the Mutton Bustin' event Sunday at the Douglas County Fair. (Echo Press photo by Eric Mork)3 / 3

Nearly 48,000 people turned out to celebrate the 125th anniversary celebration of the Douglas County Fair.

Mother Nature was again kind to fair-goers, providing sunny, warm days.

"Everything was just wonderful," said Dale Buchholz, secretary of the Douglas County Agricultural Association that organizes the fair. "The weather was absolutely perfect."

Organizers estimate that the attendance for the four-day event was up about 2 percent from last year.

"That's our best estimate," Buchholz said. "Kids are free so they can't be counted in ticket sales, so it's always an estimate."

He added that there were many well-attended activities this year.

"We had so much stuff happening on Saturday that it was really difficult for people to get around; they had to pick and choose what to do."

The pedal tractor pull drew more than 150 participants and audience members.

Two piggy races were scheduled for Saturday and one for Sunday, but because of its popularity, a second race was held Sunday.

Maggie the Milking Cow, new to this year's fair, was a hit. There was a constant line of people waiting to milk the fiberglass cow and obtain an "I milked a cow" sticker.

The free stock car races were also a hit.

Another popular part of this year's fair for some was the tobacco-free restriction.

"There were no serious problems with the tobacco-free change," Buchholz said. "A handful of people were observed smoking, but they freely moved to another area or put it out when asked."

He added that there were some gate-keeper issues, where people felt they should be admitted without having to pay, and also said that many people still choose to park away from the fairgrounds and walk instead of utilizing the free parking on the west end.

One of the main things noticed by many this year was that the number of exhibitors was down.

"We were actually down by 10 percent in terms of exhibitors," Buchholz said. "It was most noticeable in the grandstand and [Runestone Community Center]."

Organizers feel this may be due to the fact that they have had a new vendor manager each year for the past three years and some of the rapport that comes from working with someone for several years wasn't there.

Procrastination also played a role. Buchholz said there were several exhibitors that called days before the fair wanting to have exhibit space, despite the fact that the deadline was August 1.

"We got a lot of calls Monday and Tuesday," he said. "With insurance and all the other issues involved in planning, that's pretty late."

Organizers plan to advertise for vendors earlier next year.

Overall, organizers are pleased with the outcome of the 2013 county fair and will meet this week to discuss it further and begin planning for next year's event.

"The fact that we change things slightly from year to year is not with intent to upset anybody," Buchholz said. "Our goal is only to make the fair better."

More information about this year's fair, including 4-H results and a lot more photos, will be printed in a special Douglas County Fair Souvenir section in this Friday's Echo Press.

Hundreds of photos and video from all four days of the fair can be found online at www.echopress.com.

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

(320) 763-1211
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