Douglas County Fair officials promise to make good use of new facilities this year
Bull riding will join demolition derby, tractor pull, other fair favorites
photo by: Mike Yoder
Last year, the Douglas County Fair had millions of dollars of new facilities at its disposal. This year, fair officials say, those new additions will be given a better chance to shine.
The 2017 Douglas County Fair was the first one to be held after the completion of the $7.95 million fairgrounds renovation. Those renovations added such amenities as a new outdoor stage, sidewalks, 184 new parking spaces and restrooms but also a few big-ticket items: the Jim Flory Meeting Hall, the 52,000-square-foot Open Pavilion with its show ring and the rebuilt 1,935-seat Outdoor Arena.
Despite all the new features, the fair board took a status quo approach with the 2017 fair so that everyone could become familiar with the new facilities, said fair board member Mike Kelso, of Eudora. This year, the fair board is expanding on offerings with a big closing-night bull-riding contest in the Outdoor Arena. The bull-riding contest, scheduled from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4, will fill a void of a big closing night event, Kelso said.
“We’ve been talking about (bull riding) for a couple of years,” he said. “It’s something people have suggested, along with a full-blown rodeo. The problem with a rodeo is they require more than the one night we have available.”
The fair board scheduled the Betsworth Bull Bash and Muttin’ Bustin’ show to bring the fair to a rousing close, Kelso said. The show should provide from two to three hours of entertainment as cowboys challenge themselves against the biggest of barnyard animals and younger contestants try to ride sheep.
The Friday night demolition derby, which is traditionally the most popular event at the fair, will get a new addition this year, Kelso said. The derby will conclude with a figure-8 race in which contestants will try to avoid — or seek out, in some cases — collisions in the middle of the figure 8, he said.
Other Outdoor Arena activities include the Renegade Pulls Hot Rod Garden Tractor Pull from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1 and an antique tractor pull at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2.
The fair board had hoped to add a Saturday night beer garden this year near the concert stage on the south side of the fairgrounds, Kelso said. However, the board encountered difficulty in finding a vendor willing to provide service for only one night.
“It’s looking like that’s not going to happen,” he said.
One lesson learned last year will be reflected i the location of another of the fair’s popular events, said Susan Johnson, of K-State Research and Extension of Douglas County. The popular Chefs Challenge will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, in the Dreher Building. The contest, in which chefs prepare fare that includes locally grown ingredients, was moved at the last minute last year from the outdoor stage to the Dreher Bulding because of rain, Johnson said. The building worked out so well that it was selected as the site of the challenge this year, she said.
“It’s air-conditioned,” Johnson said. “Another big positive is we can use the kitchen area to plate the food safely for sampling.”
Those attending the Chefs Challenge will be able to sample the dishes the chefs prepare, Johnson said. This year, the dishes are to contain summer squash, which is now in season in Douglas County gardens, she said.
In another change this year, the Naturally Nutritious Food Festival will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday Aug. 1, so it doesn’t conflict with the Chefs Challenge, Johnson said. The festival allows children and adults to enter dishes for judging in eight different categories and those attending the event to sample them, she said.
Although the fair officially starts July 30, members of the county’s 4-H clubs have already started exhibiting some of their projects. Other fair mainstays include a concerts, contests of agrarian skills such as hay bale throwing and goat milking, and the Moore’s Greater Shows Carnival.