80,000 attend fair on average

Published 10:32 am Monday, August 4, 2008

As far as John Mueller is concerned, 80,000 people can’t be wrong.

That’s the average attendance for the annual Mower County Free Fair each August. The figure dwarfs any other event in Austin.

This year’s Mower County Free Fair begins Tuesday and continues through Sunday, Aug. 10 at the fairgrounds in southwest Austin.

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“We try to keep it fresh each year, but we also like to see old, popular events and activities return that are Mower County Free Fair traditions,” said Mueller, vice president of the Mower County Fair Board.

“I think every county fair in southeast Minnesota has found their niche and knows what they can offer the people in their area and we think we have done that here,” Mueller said.

The 4-H horse show was held Saturday, and Sunday saw Mower County’s best cooks, bakers, gardeners and artisans bring their projects to the creative arts building for judging.

The official grand opening takes place at noon Tuesday at Fair Square.

That evening, the debut of the “Pride of Mower County” will take place also on the Fair Square stage.

The Fair Board will honor the recipients of several awards:

2008 Fair Person of the Year, Bill Klingerman.

Livestock Hall of Fame inductee Ron Seath.

Outstanding Senior Volunteer Beverly Smith.

University of Minnesota Extension Service Farm Family of the Year, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Sayles.

Outstanding Service Organization, Adams American Legion Post No. 146.

Century Farms: John and Cindy Jax, Harlen H. and Joyce C. Renken and Marcella V. Schwartz.

According to Mueller, the Mower County Fair requires year-around attention from the directors. “Immediately after the county fair and the National Barrow Show in September, we start work on the next county fair,” he said.

The results of those efforts will be seen this week.

“One of the areas we have tried to improve upon are activities for teenagers and we think we have done that on Tuesday night of the fair,” Mueller said.

Also, free bicycles will be given away before each grandstands show to a child ages 5-12 with a paid grandstands ticket each night at the shows.

A similar giveaway will take place Thursday night at the combine demolition derby, where toy tractors and trucks will be given away to eligible children. Mueller expects a classic car show from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday to be a popular new attraction.

“We expect at least 50 vehicles and the number could go as high as 70 or 80,” he said.

Trophies will be given out at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The vehicles will be on display northeast of the Plager Building.

Still another new attraction touted by Mueller is the events tent at the east end of the Plager Building.

One of the sponsors is enXco Inc., the wind turbine company, which is sponsoring coupons for free malts.

Another newer attraction is the Day Care Day, sponsored by the Austin Police Officers Association. Activities are planned from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, including the always popular Vehicle Fair.

Mueller said the daily parades at 4:30 p.m. have also been a new attraction that has gained in popularity. On Saturday and Sunday, the parades will take place at 1 p.m.

On Thursday, the new Don Ritland Memorial Children’s Barnyard will be unveiled in ceremonies scheduled 4 p.m.

Volunteers under the direction of fair board director Peter Marx have completed remodeled the Children’s Barnyard, including a new pond.

All this and 4-Hers, FFA students, open class livestock shows, creative arts, Merriam’s Midway Shows carnival rides and attractions, a tractor pull, farm machinery displays and food.

Mueller said the Mower County Fair has it all.

“It really does,” he said. “We work hard to find something for everyone.”