Central Montana Fair a big hit: Near record numbers turning out for fun

By: 
DEB HILL
News-Argus Managing Editor

From left, Sean Kunau, June LePage and Bailey Uecker enjoy a ride inside a bear at the Central Montana Fair's new-look carnival Thursday.

Photo by Charlie Denison

While official numbers are not in yet, fair organizers say this year’s fair is bringing in the crowds. Fair manager Faith Robertson and fair board member Gene Meier say attendance is better than it’s been for years.

“I’ve heard so many positive comments about this fair,” Meier said. “The community has really come together, and it shows in the numbers.”

On Friday morning, Meier was already citing near-record attendance.

“We just had one of the best opening days we’ve had for years, or at least that’s what our vendors are telling me,” Meier said.

Rodeo attendance was also up, with over 1,800 in the audience Wednesday and over 2,000 showing up to watch the action Thursday, Robertson said.

The Friday Night Show, always a highlight of the fair, was looking to be successful both financially and in terms of audience numbers. This year’s combo of performers, with Daryle Singletary opening for Travis Tritt, appealed to Central Montanans, if the ticket sales numbers are anything to go by.

“We are pushing 2,000 tickets sold,” Meier told the News-Argus on Friday morning. “That’s well over break even. It’s the best we’ve done since we had Charley Pride here years ago. It just goes to show, we may need to pay a little more but if we bring in the bigger acts, our Night Show does much better.”

Meier said he is already working on next year’s Night Show performers.

“I can’t say too much yet, but we’ve made an offer to get a well-known female act for next year,” he said.

A few years ago, lack of carnival rides was a problem for the fair, but not this year, Meier said.

“I don’t know if anyone remembers, but there used to be a museum in Billings with old tractors and equipment called Oscar’s Dreamland,” Meier said. “Well, the owner of our carnival is Oscar’s son. He said because of his family Montana connection, he really wanted to do well by us, so he brought three more carnival rides than he had to for us.

“We haven’t seen a carnival like this in six or eight years,” Meier added.

Hannah Clemenson, 15, formerly of Roy, was also impressed with the carnival, calling it an upgrade from years past.

“The rides were a lot more fun and in better shape,” Clemenson said. “There were rides we haven’t seen in years, like a real Ferris wheel. Also, it seemed like a lot of kids were a lot happier with the turnout than they’ve been in years.”

Meier said the same carnival is booked to return for the next two years, and many of the other acts performing at this year’s fair are under contract to return again next year.

“All I’ve heard are compliments about this year’s fair,” Meier said. “This is a good year.”

Today, Saturday, July 30, is the final day of the Central Montana Fair, including the BGM races starting at 1 p.m. and the Demolition Derby at 6 p.m. The fair and carnival close at 11 p.m. tonight.

 

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