Having a good time

Chancey Williams, sold-out demo derby cap 2022 fair, attendance tops 23,000
Katherine Sears
Managing Editor
Tuesday, August 2, 2022
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Chancey Williams entertains the crowd at the Central Montana Fair Friday night. Photo by Matthew Strissel

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Hans Pederson and Siri Pederson are all smiles on the Star Trooper ride on Saturday at the carnival. Photo by Katherine Sears

As fairgoers put another Central Montana Fair in the memory bank, the heat might be at the forefront. But, most are sure to remember this year by just how much fun they had, too. 

According to the Fergus County Facilities and Events Office Manager Rhonda Trask, just under 24,000 people walked through the gates between Tuesday and Saturday, which is on par with 2021. 

“Last year was just over 24,000,” said Trask. “I think people came early and stayed or came after they quit counting for the day, [which would increase this year’s number].”

The largest attendance was clocked Thursday, with around 7,100 people coming through the gates for the sold-out night two of the Central Montana PRCA Rodeo. This was the second year in a row the Thursday rodeo was sold out.

“Wednesday was also up from last year,” said Fair Board Chair/Central Montana PRCA Rodeo Representative Connie Ahlgren. “This year’s rodeo went great. We think it’s our best one yet. We had great stock and great cowboys; everything was top notch.” 

Those attending the Thursday night rodeo were treated to a patriotic display during the National Anthem. Local veterans and first responders carried and presented a large American flag inside the arena before the start of the rodeo, which was met with amazing applause from the audience.  

Thursday attendance was followed closely by Saturday, at 6,500 people, attending the carnival, BGM races, and the sold-out derby. The evening derby featured several heats of cars, along with fun performances from ATV barrel racers. 

Wyoming saddle bronc rider turned country music star Chancey Williams entertained a crowd during the Friday night show and even made an appearance to talk with fans during the live music that followed at the free stage after the concert.  

Live music on the Midway every night after the main events kept people at the fairgrounds a little longer, and the beer garden busy.

“The beer garden did well,” said Neal Tucek, with the Central Montana Jaycees, the organization that hosts the garden. “The live music keeps people out there and people seem to enjoy it.” 

While Tucek didn’t have figures on beer sales yet, he did report that the tip jars garnered $617.42, which the Jaycees will match to donate to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Fergus County. The program provides free books for county kids under 5. 

Tucek commended everyone who stepped up to staff the beer garden.

“A lot of us are aging out,” said Tucek. “We’re training a new person to run the garden and it’s going well. A lot of new people are volunteering and just having a good time doing it.” 

The Fergus County Sheriff’s Office once again had a large presence at the fair.

“We pride ourselves in providing a fun and safe atmosphere at the fair,” said Sheriff Rick Vaughn, who has been on patrol for 22 Central Montana Fairs. “When we provide a lot of officers and a lot of hands on deck, it’s a preventative thing and I think it helps avoid a lot of things that can happen.” 

Between seven and 10 deputy reserves suit up for fair week, along with the FCSO full-time staff. Vaughn said the relationship between county facilities staff, the fair board, first responders, and law enforcement, helps the fair run smoothly. 

Vaughn said his office issued four minor in possessions over the course of the fair, and no DUIs. The Council on Aging provided shuttle rides, which Vaughn sees as a big benefit. 

EMS personnel were perhaps the busiest due to the heat as temperatures pushed the low 90s Friday and Saturday. 

“They had four medical calls for dehydration and heat exhaustion,” said Vaughn. “That’s a lot – I don’t remember having that many because of the heat in the past.” 

Despite the heat, fairgoers seemed to be enjoying the biggest summer celebration in Central Montana. 

“There were just a lot of people out having a good time,” said Vaughn.