SPENCER - The 2013 Clay County Fair has always boasted a large agricultural base, and this year it brings new promises for ag promotion and other excitement as it goes about its nine-day run from Sept. 7 to Sept. 15.
The 2013 theme is "Bushels of Fun."
Jeremy Parsons, CCF's secretary manager, said one of the goals of the fair board was to keep the cattle buildings full all nine days.
-Messenger file photo
Midway rides are always a family attraction at the Clay?County Fair.
That will happen this year as the fair brings in three new beef breeds, including miniature Hereford, Lowline and Charolais.
"Our 4-H cattle numbers are at a 10-year record high," Parsons said. "There will be 38 counties represented in our overall livestock exhibits, and we even have an exhibitor from Wisconsin in the beef show."
He added that open class numbers for livestock exhibits are also up this year.
The fair has invited a new sheep breed to be exhibited this year-Katahdin, an American meat sheep breed. The fair will boast a sheep exhibitor from North Dakota.
Keeping in the ag tradition, the fair added "Thank a Farmer Day." This, Parsons said, will give farmers reduced admission to the fair.
It is meant to bring further awareness of the American farmer and all he or she does to provide food to feed the world and improve quality of life.
The tractor pulls will be Sept. 12.
That day will also feature "Iowa Corn Day," with exhibits and presentations showcasing the importance of corn in the world.
The CCF's campus covers 240 acres and features 150 ag vendors. The fair features 30 acres of farm equipment and ag machinery displays, making it the largest of its kind.
"It used to be that every child had grandparents or at least an aunt or uncle who lived on a farm, and today, even in our local areas, that's not the case anymore," said Dave Simington, member of the Clay County Fair Board. "We feel it's very important to try to educate (people) from the time they can walk to the fair until they're 90 years old.
"Our goal is that everybody who comes to the fair gains valuable knowledge about rural America, especially the ag sector, helping people to understand where their food comes from."
Simington said "Thank a Farmer Day" is something the fair board hopes will help visitos to be thankful that there are citizens who choose to grow the nation's food.
"There are fewer and fewer families making a living just from the farm," he said. "We felt it was important to honor those people, especially the young farmers who are starting out in that risky business.
"We want to show our appreciation to those families."
Opportunities for people to learn about agriculture today exist over many places at the fairgrounds, but will be concentrated at the Ag Learning Center, where Mike Klee will present his "'Awesome Ag Show," demonstrating how agriculture impacts daily life. His Ag-Citing program annually attracts 600 third-graders from northwest Iowa schools, educating them about the ways of food production and value-added products.
Grandpa's Barn features a building full of young farm animals, giving visitors a chance to be up close to a farm animal and learn about it.
The Central Park area will feature exhibits and displays focusing on agriculture over five different days. Ag themes will include dairy, pork, soybeans, corn and wind energy.
Overall, the CCF will feature more than $120,000 in free entertainment, along with a record 527 vendors. Something new this year will include a shuttle system to and from parking areas all day long, ending at 10:30 p.m.
This service used to end at 6 p.m. Parsons said it's meant to help people be able to stay at the fair longer.
Shuttles will also pick fair goers up at Faith Lutheran Church in north Spencer, as well as from the Southpark Mall in south Spencer, and bring them to the fairgrounds.
Parsonssaid the CCF will experiment with a Guinness World Record attempt on Sept. 14, assisted by area schools, Iowa Lakes Community College and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Initiative from ISU.
Parsosns said the goal is to get 1,000 people in the grandstand that day to hear briefly from a science professor, then have everyone in the grandstand perform an experiment, which will be given to them as they arrive at the grandstand.
"People don't get a chance to see and be part of a world record attempt, but we're pretty excited about that," Parsons said.
Fair-goers can stop at any of the information booths and pick up a different Daily Deals sheet each day, featuring different businesses who are featuring deals on products and services.
Parsons said the fair needed to improve its night time activities and its ability to give people a reason to stay at the fair longer. This led them to schedule bands and other musical acts to the Dish Plaza, (formerly the U.S. Cellular Plaza).
There will be a different band or musical act there every night of the fair.
Sixty food vendors will offer their goods, including some new ones selling Jamaican food, cookie dough desserts, deep fried s'mores on a stick, flavored corn dogs (including bacon, jalapeno and sweetcorn), and the ultimate bacon tenderloin.
Parsons said there will also be healthy foods to eat at the fair, in coordination with the Spencer Blue Zones Project. Those food stands will be listed in the fair guide.
The CCF will celebrate its centennial in 2017. In an effort to make the fairgrounds shine for its 100-year anniversary, the fair board is continuing with its Charitable Trust as part of its centennial project, raising funds to improve the buildings and grounds.
The plan's three-fold purpose is to restore and renovate facilities, install and improve infrastructure and construct new facilities.
They would eventually like to cover the outdoor horse arena to make it more useful, and assure that shows can go on, rain or shine.
The historic Ag Building needs updating, Parsons said. It's one of the original buildings on the fairgrounds.
"If we expect people to bring their best to the fair to exhibit, then we should have facilities to match," Parsons said.
The new white fence surrounding the parking area north of the fairgrounds came from a $17,000 anonymous donation, Parsons said.
Parsons said that with the 2013 fairground's facelifts, along with top-name grandstand entertainment and free entertainment going on all day long, visitors should be able to come to the fair and have things to do and see long into the evenings.