Aug 7, 2014 - By Steven R. PeckConstruction-related traffic problems didn't come close to ruining the Fremont County Fair
Traffic to the Fremont County Fairgrounds during last week's fair definitely was affected by the big South Federal Boulevard rebuild project, but overall the situation proved manageable.
That's not to say there weren't problems. Staff writer Katie Roenigk reports more about that on a front-page story today. But the fair went on, and so did the construction. It turns out the Federal Boulevard rebuild didn't ruin the fair. Not even close.
When you are at the fairgrounds during a busy day, it always seems crowded, but there are those who claim visitation was lower this year. The fair keeps track of such things, and information about 2014 visitation compared to previous years, based on something other than speculation, presumably will be available before long.
Short of the actual data, casual observation suggests that attendance at the big nighttime shows at the grandstand arena continues to be strong. The PRCA rodeo, arriving on the heels of Cheyenne Frontier Days, usually draws some big-name riders and ropers, and that was the case again this year. There have been better-attended rodeos here, but those didn't have to contend not only with road construction but also a soaking rainstorm and the accompanying muddy ground both in and out of the arena. Tuesday's rodeo night was a muddy mess for anyone driving to the fairgrounds and walking around the arena.
Coincidences of nature -- and rare ones at that -- ought not to be used unfairly to assess the popularity of the event. Next year, South Federal Boulevard won't be dug up, and in this part of the country a big rain in late July is a rarity.
As for the shows themselves, the breakout stars of the fair this year were the jousting Knights of Valour, who performed Thursday. Not a cheap ticket, but ask anyone who bought one and you'll hear about a fun, exciting show. The capacity crowd probably covered the costs. This one's a keeper.
And the demolition derby continues to hold its magical sway over Fremont County audiences. It fills the old grandstand to the rafters year in and year out for three, sometimes four hours of heavy-metal entrainment.
The grandstand events are important to the fair as generators of excitement, crowds, positive word of mouth, and revenue. This year's lineup provided a good mix of tradition and innovation, with room for some local names and faces among the traveling entertainment.
Our county fair can and will remain successful if it continues to provide as many "points of entry" as possible. That means more routes to reach the fairgrounds physically, which was a bigger challenge this year than most. It also means offering reasons for different kinds of people to come to the fair for their own reasons. Once they are there, the traditional lures of animals and wholesome exhibits take hold, and most people leave with a smile -- and start planning for next year.
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