It's that time! Minnow races, mouth-watering pork chops, and bike giveaways all scream Douglas County Fair.

The annual county get-together will take place for four big days, starting tomorrow, Thursday, Aug. 16. Gates open each day at 8 a.m.

A mix of old and new, the fair attracts about 40,000 visitors over its four-day span. Here's a look at what to expect this year.

Saturday night party

In the past, auto races have dominated Saturday nights at the fair. Not this year. This year, Saturday night will be all about the music, as Fargo band Tripwire will break out the trampolines and cover tunes.

Smash 'n' crash

Fair audiences have shown they love to see things getting smashed up. So much so that this year's crowd has not one, not two, but three chances to hate on machines.

The first opportunity is Thursday night's Lawn Mower Demolition Derby. New last year, it proved fan-friendly enough that fair organizers decided to bring it back.

"Everybody we talked to thought it was very entertaining and they'd be back again this year," said Brad Brejcha.

Next, the perennial Demo Derby will return on Friday night. Hosted by Viking Speedway at the Grandstand, it pits beater car against beater car. Last vehicle standing wins.

If you miss the first Demo Derby, you'll get another chance on Sunday afternoon, as the Speedway is hosting another demolition derby for the weekend crowd.

Paved roads!

Wheelchairs and baby strollers will maneuver more easily this year, as, for the first time, all the fairgrounds roads will be paved. The Douglas County Agricultural Association teamed up with the City of Alexandria this summer to put down asphalt.

"You won't be walking on mud anymore to get to the buildings," Brejcha said.

Runestone Center comes in from the cold

Expect the fair to spread out more, as the the Runestone Community Center will be included for the first time in three years. It'll be the site not just of a craft show on Friday and Saturday, but for laser tag all four days of the fair. For the past two years, the center had been left in the cold, first because of construction and then because last year's major event was held outdoors.

There will also be a first-ever flea market on the west end of the grandstand during all days of the fair.

Both the flea market and the craft fair are included in the price of fair admission.

Other news

• Cornerstone Martial Arts students ages 6 to 20 will demonstrate their tae kwon do moves at 6:30 p.m. Friday near the 4-H stand.

• Fairgoers will have a chance to learn CPR, as mannequins will be on hand near the 4-H area to demonstrate this life-saving technique. In the past year, there have been several local incidents where bystanders have had to administer CPR, Brejcha said. "This is a great opportunity to get a lot of people trained in CPR in a short amount of time," he said.

• Want to participate in the pie eating or watermelon eating contests? Pay attention to the loudspeakers. These popular contests are coming back this year, but there's no set time. Instead, organizers will announce them as pop-up events over the speaker system. That's true for musical chairs, too, which will return this year. These free events will be held throughout the day on the 4-H or the Knute Nelson Stage.

• On Thursday afternoon, senior citizens will get a chance to speak to experts about issues affecting their lives, as organizations will have representatives in the Johnson Building.

• Expect close to a dozen new vendors, providing egg rolls, pet supplies, henna body art as well as information about their businesses and organizations.

Favorites

K-9 demonstrations, turtle races, the Alexandria Senior Center making lefse for sale, the Schmidt Pedal Pull for children and area fire departments will all come back this year. So will live performers and, of course, Calorie Lane.

Douglas County's Got Talent!

A talent contest at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18 at the 4-H Stage will decide who goes on to the Minnesota State Fair. Whether your thing is juggling, piano playing or rapping, this is your chance to win cash prizes. Contestants will be divided into three classes:

First Class: Age 12 and younger

Second Class: Ages 13 to 18

Third Class: Open to all ages

Third Annual Princess Pageant

Girls between ages 5 and 9 will star in this pageant at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19 on the 4-H Stage. They will be judged on the best dress, the best private interview and the best onstage interview. Two weeks before the pageant, they begin practicing, learning how to walk, wave and dance in a group.

Bike Give-Away

Ronald McDonald will not be at the fair this year, but the bike giveaway will go on without him. Every day of the fair, the fair board will give away one boy's and one girl's bike at 5 p.m. Children ages 4-12 are eligible to win. They must register for the drawing near the law enforcement display and bus garage, and be present to win.

Carnival rides

Advanced Midway Wristbands available for purchase at Cub Foods, Elden's Fresh Food and dcmnfair.com until 9 p.m. August 15.

Single session unlimited ride wristband in advance: $25. During the fair, single session wristbands are available at the Midway Ticket booths for $30

Midway Four Wristband Mega Certificate, equal to 4 unlimited ride wristbands: $75. Advanced sales only - not available during the fair.

Wristbands are one-time use and can be used during the wristband session of your choice.

Wristband sessions:

• Thursday, Aug. 17, 5-9 p.m.

• Friday, Aug. 18, 1-5 p.m.

• Saturday, Aug. 19, 1-5 p.m.

• Sunday, Aug. 20, 1-5 p.m. and 6-10 p.m.

The basics

Admission Prices

Adults: $7

Children (0-10): FREE

Season pass: $21

Golden pass: $40 (Admission and premium parking)

Parking

Free parking is in the Integrity Title West Parking Lot. East gate parking is by handicapped tag or $5. Additional motorcycle parking at the east gate is free.