Clay County Fair creates next stop on planned Ag-venture Trail
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Clay County Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons said fair officials are ready to make lemonade out of lemons at this year's fair after last year's events were called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic — Parsons called last year's cancellation the ultimate lemon. But organizers are preparing to once again open the fair's iconic gates, and Parson's said agricultural education will once again be an emphasis at this year's fair.
"The fair really prides itself on educational opportunities for youth," Parsons said Friday.
The fair has shuffled some of its exhibition spaces around again this year and will now house the new small animal barn on the southwestern portion of the fairgrounds in the Morton building which sometimes exhibited farm machinery. The building will now house rabbits and poultry throughout the nine-day fair, according to Parsons, which he noted is a change. Exhibitors previously had to swap out the rabbits and birds mid-week. Parsons said the building will also feature a dedicated educational space for fairgoers to learn about raising the animals they see during their visit. It's a model the fair hopes to replicate in other livestock facilities on the fairgrounds.
"The small animal barn is kind of a prototype of what we're looking at in the future," Parsons said. "We're really excited about that. That's the most rapidly growing area of the fair in terms of livestock. As people move into acreages and off the farm, it's easier to raise rabbits and poultry."
Competitors in the small animal shows previously displayed their animals in the westernmost portion of the horse barns. The space will likely remain void of animals this year and be used to store horse tack, Parsons said, but soon the fair plans to use the barn to house additional horses — specifically miniature horses.
Shuttle routes on the fairgrounds will also be adjusted slightly this year to include a stop at the new small animal barn. A trio of shuttles will loop the fairgrounds as usual, but this year one of the shuttles will loop turn south at the Branding Iron eatery and taxi toward Gate D before scooping the southern edge of the fairgrounds and heading the north again.
"Part of that small animal barn development also involves a couple food vendors being moved down there and really developing an anchor on the south end of the grounds to help pull traffic north-to-south through the fairgrounds," Parsons said.
To that end, the small animal barn will be the southern bookend of what Parson's said the fair plans to call Ag-venture Trail. He noted the Grandpa's Barn building is a short distance to the north, with the Ag Learning Center and the outdoor arena in between. The Grandpa's Barn facility was upgraded ahead of the 2018 fair, and features live animals as well as a working windmill-driven water pump and other educational displays.
Parsons said the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Office has expanded its programming to host a manufacturing expo on Sept. 17 near the 4-H building and auditorium on the east side of the fairgrounds. He said several manufacturers from northwest Iowa are expected to participate and show students in grades 7-12 some of what their industries have to offer. Parsons said the program will also tie in well with a number of activities the 4-H office will be doing at that time.
"They're going to have robotics, they're going to have simulators — really just an opportunity for junior high and high school kids to see what manufacturing jobs are available in the region," Parsons said. "Several schools — obviously Clay County schools will be out for the day — but several other school districts are planning on bringing their career students here that day."
Parsons said participation numbers from both 4-H and FFA competitors are on par with the 2019 fair — open class entries had not closed as of Friday's preview day at the fair. Exhibitors may begin bringing their entries to the fair this Friday. Parsons also said a good number of grandstand tickets and advanced entry tickets have already been sold.
The Clay County Fair begins Saturday, Sept. 11 and will run through Sept. 19.
Fair prepares for fun amid pandemic concerns
Clay County Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons said some aspects of the upcoming annual fair remain fluid with less than two weeks before the gates open. Ripple effects from the COVID-19 pandemic have made some aspects of business more challenging for the fair as well as its vendors. However, Parsons said fair organizers have worked closely with officials at Clay County Public Health in preparing for opening day and will adapt as needed.
Additional sanitizing and hand washing stations will be put in place for the public's use. Parsons said a third cleaning crew has also been booked to make rounds and periodically wipe down frequently touched surfaces — tables, counters, door handles — during the day. At night, crews will electrostatically clean all buildings on the fairgrounds.
Masks will be recommended but not required for fairgoers, staff, exhibitors and volunteers when indoors and unable to socially distance — which is also encouraged. No special capacity restrictions were expected to be in place as of Friday, and the fair will not be requiring proof of vaccination to enter. Organizers ask that the public stay home from the fair if ill.
For more information, visit claycountyfair.com/plan-your-trip/safety-and-security/