All-in-all, Don Kleine deemed the 2019 Douglas County Fair a success. With two rain events — a smaller one Thursday night and a strong thunderstorm Saturday night — the fair board president considered it a good fair and he heard lots of positive comments from fairgoers and vendors.
"Was it our best fair? No, last year was better, but with the rain, I believe it was a good event and everything worked out well," said Kleine.
Although the numbers are still preliminary, he said attendance was around 48,000 for all four days. Last year's attendance was about 50,000. However, he feels that without those two rainy nights, attendance probably would have surpassed what it was last year.
Thursday's rain was light enough that the fair wasn't closed early, although it did delay the headline entertainment. Because of the heavier rain, winds and lightning on Saturday, the fair closed around 9 p.m. with the midway closing a little earlier than that.
This year, the four-day fair opened a day earlier, on a Wednesday, running through Saturday instead of Sunday. That move appeared to pay off, with preliminary attendance figures showing that nearly double the amount of people attended on Wednesday this year compared to Sunday in 2018. Those attendance figures were around 13,000 on Wednesday, whereas last year on Sunday, there were roughly 7,500 in attendance.
Kleine also said the free entertainment offered to fairgoers each day went over really well. The Douglas County Agriculture Association, which is in charge of the fair, spent about $35,000 for the musicians, Kleine said. Music was provided by the Fabulous Armadillos, Shane Martin, I Witness, Tripwire and the Red Letter Band.
"The entertainment is a cornerstone of our success," he said.
Four full days
For senior day, Kleine said roughly 800 senior citizens attended the fair.
"Think about all those seniors and the memories that were evoked by being out here," he said. "The sights, sounds and smells brought back memories of when they were here as kids. It's so nice that they are able to come out, and with the blacktop, (it) makes it easier for them to get around if they are in a wheelchair."
On Thursday, Kleine said about 500 special needs children and their families attended during sensory day, and another estimated 500 service men and women attended during military day.
Although he didn’t have specific numbers, Kleine said a lot of people came out Wednesday for the free lunch.
Throughout the fair, Kleine heard many positive comments and had a lot of good reactions.
“Over and over again, we heard comments about having such a clean and safe fair,” he said. “People talked about how clean the bathrooms were and how they could continue to enjoy themselves and feel safe at night.”
On behalf of the fair board, he thanked area law enforcement, including the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff’s Posse and Alexandria Police Department, for their support and commitment to the fair and the safety of those who attended.
Kleine also talked about all the people who were recognized at the fair, including local senior citizen Kathryn Lebrasseur, who now has a building, Heritage Square, named after her. He shared that the local 4-H groups celebrated their 50th anniversary of being at the Douglas County Fair. And he said the fair board was very appreciative of the benches that were donated this year in memory and honor of past board members, as well as one bench that was donated by a family in memory of a long-time fair-goer.
Kleine shared a couple of stories from people he met while giving them golf cart rides to various activities at the fair. He told the story of a family that comes from Mankato every year and that this year, the family included grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren.
One of the parents told Kleine that he remembered coming to the fair with his parents and enjoyed so much that he wanted to bring his own kids so they could enjoy it, too.
He shared the story of two sisters who were from a family of 10 — nine girls and one boy. The two women shared that their brother ended up in the hospital the day before but because he was going to be OK, they made their way to fair because they couldn’t miss it. They told Kleine they attend every year.
“I saw them dancing to The Red Letter Band and having fun,” said Kleine.
Kleine also shared the story of an elderly gentleman he gave a ride to who told Kleine he had to come to the fair to go to the Department of Natural Resources booth. The man worked for the DNR earlier in life and was very familiar with the DNR and shared stories with Kleine.
“He had trouble walking, but he had to get over there to visit with them,” he said. “I picked him up afterward and he had a great time talking to them.”
Kleine said the motto for the fair is “Making memories that last a lifetime” and his hope is that everyone who attended this year’s fair, will remember it and their memories will last their lifetime.