Some changes at the fair

Earlier this month, Hallee Witkowski, from left, Cameron Boggs, Jillian Boggs, Reba Pierson, Miranda Boager and Hayven Witkowski take a pair of 4-H project goats for a walk around the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds, trying to get them fair ready.


With some changes in this year’s Eastern Montana Fair, Fair Manager Gail Shaw wanted to explain how the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds and the fair are funded and why changes were made.

While the fairgrounds is a county facility, the county is, as Shaw put it, “not exactly rolling in dough.” On average, she says, taxes that are collected for the actual fair event and the total expenditures that go along with keeping the grounds up come to about 33 percent of the total expenditure needed during the year.

The remaining 67 percent is, says Shaw, “made up by the creative behavior of the board.” The fair board is also responsible for ongoing expenses such as utilities, upkeep, wages, repairs and other items. Equipment has needed replacement in recent years, as old machinery wore out.

Shaw emphasized, “The public, all walks of the public, have been so kind in their donations from contractors, clubs, time, materials - you name it, we have been blessed with a wonderful community.”

One of the changes that was made partly for financial reasons was the date change, from Wednesday through Saturday rather than the traditional Thursday through Sunday. That change was made to accommodate the Mighty Thomas Carnival.

The Thomas Carnival was founded in 1928 by Art B. Thomas of Lennox, S.D. It remains owned and operated by the Thomas family, with the third generation of family members working in the business. The carnival is a member of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association. The OABA maintains a Quality Assessment Team and the Thomas Carnival has been certified for its Circle of Excellence safety program since 2004. Re-certifications take place every two years.

The Fair Board wanted to work with the Thomas Carnival and the Thomas’ wanted to work with the Fair Board. Because of another commitment, the carnival would have had to leave early and could not provide a full schedule of rides on Sunday.

The Mighty Thomas Carnival, unlike others the Fair Board has contacted, shares a portion of their profits with the Fair Board. The other carnivals, said Shaw, “and they are few,” wanted a set fee of from $10,000 to $15,000, with no profit sharing.


See “Fair,” page 5

It was mutually agreed that since the Thomas’ like the Eastern Montana Fair and the Eastern Montana Fair likes the family, the date of the 2014 fair would be moved back one day to everyone’s benefit.

Otherwise, the fair will operate as usual, with all the events just moved back one day, with Wednesday activities starting at 8 a.m. with the official 4-H and FFA horse judging. The carnival will open at 4 p.m., with advance sale at the chamber of “All You Can Ride” tickets for $17 good for Wednesday or Saturday. Wednesday afternoon will have pet shows, tractor pulls and talent shows rounding out the day.

Thursday will be more judging and rodeo and fireworks days. Friday will feature the concert with Lorrie Morgan and Saturday will be Demolition Derby Day.

The entrance fee to the fair has been raised to $3 this year, with $1 going to defray the cost of the entertainment, $1 going to the improvement of the grounds, and $1 going to what Shaw says is “to help purchase enough machinery to do the different mechanical things that have to be done out at the grounds.”

Shaw said she felt that the public was entitled to a quick overview of the monies that the facility has to work with. And, she added, “I hope you all enjoy the fair as much as I do.”

“I have a real passion for the fair,” she said. Shaw started out as a participant, then worked in the office and took over as manager in 2010.