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Planning for county fair not a smooth ride

By Staff | Aug 2, 2008

Daryl Murray

It was a learning experience for the Faribault County Fair Board and a new one for those attending the 148th annual event this year.

Despite the perfect weather and a better than normal turnout for the six-day venue, something was missing: a selection of carnival rides.

“In the fair boardmembers’ minds we decided five rides was better than no rides,” says board president Daryl Murray. “The problem wasn’t with the quality of the rides, it was the quantity.”

Last year, Premier Enterprises Carnival supplied the midway rides but the company was out of business by the end of the year.

“We had an understanding with them, but no written contract. It was just a handshake agreement,” he says.

In January, the fair board was left scrambling to find a replacement and it was no easy task.

Cost also is making it harder for smaller fairs to hire the bigger carnivals. Murray says most want a guarantee of $30,000 to $50,000.

“There aren’t a lot of carnival companies lined up just waiting for you to contact them,” he says. “We did the best we could under the situation.”

All American Amusements Midway, says Murray, was already committed to another fair but was willing to send some of their rides to Blue Earth. In addition, the fair board booked Gee Willie inflatables to complement the carnival.

As in past years the county’s nine 4-H clubs have sold advance ride tickets.

Murray says club leaders were told at a June meeting there would be a limited number of carnival rides. However, he says businesses selling the tickets for 4-H members may have not known.

“In hindsight I don’t think we would have sold tickets. We would have let people see what rides there were and let them decide if they wanted to buy tickets,” he says.

Some people did voice their complaints and received a refund. It wasn’t “a whole lot of money,” says Murray.

Other fair-goers were given a ticket to attend the demolition derby, the same cost of the 20-ticket strips.

“I did get quite a few calls. I personally contacted those people. We made some mistakes and it was a tough situation,” says Murray.

The board already has started thinking about next year’s fair.

While changes are being discussed, events that drew large crowds — demolition derby, rodeo, Motokazie and All American Lumberjack Show — likely will be back.

“We have a couple of ideas for next year. We’re looking at things we can do to make the fair even better,” says Murray.