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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Possible change of fair date captures attention

By Kyle Vuille

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Faced with no options for a carnival during the Dawson County Fair, the Dawson County Fair Board made the decision to hold a carnival in June while the remainder of the fair, including the night show, exhibits, 4-H entries and rodeo, will be held during the traditional dates in August, at least in 2018.

This surprising news captured local attention after word began to get out following the Fair Board’s Monday meeting. For now, the final determination of whether the fair moves long term will depend in part on the outcome of this year’s separate June carnival and August fair.

According to fair manager Tacee DeSaye, for the past 10 years, the Dawson County fair had done business with Funtime Carnival, but the owner of Funtime gave DeSaye a call in mid-October saying he could no longer make Glendive a stop on his route. 

Shortly after, Desaye and another fair board member attended the Rocky Mountain Fair Association Convention last month in Colorado Springs, Colo.

While in Colorado Springs, Desaye and Terah Lynn met with four other towns about what options they were using. They met with fair board folks from Baker, Dodson, Scobey and Plentywood where it was decided carnival companies already had their established routes.

“The only option given to us was Bret McKenney of Northstar for the third weekend in June,” Desaye said. 

She explained the 2018 carnival and fair will be two separate events with the carnival being held in June and the remainder of fair events being held on the usual date in August.

“We visited with most of the event leaders and vendors and the board decided a carnival is vital to the fair, so we asked the commissioners to move forward with having (the carnival) in June,” Fair Board member Nathan Stortz said.

The fate of the fair and the carnival is ultimately up to the county commissioners, but Desaye and Stortz are hopeful the bigger, more professional carnival will overshadow the change of dates.

According to Desaye and Stortz, the 2018 carnival will be 20-30 percent bigger than last year’s carnival with 14 rides. They noted they expect Northstar will be much more professional than the carnivals they have been able to get in the past.

“They have a good reputation where parents will feel safe putting their children on the rides,” Desaye said.

Desaye noted Northstar is the carnival company that goes to the Sidney fair and having the carnival in June puts the timing of Glendive’s carnival ahead of Sidney’s.

Desaye and Stortz listed other pros of a June carnival, including cooler weather and not having time conflicts with the Billings fair and the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

By contrast, the cons of moving the whole fair event, something that may be considered in the future, would be hurting the 4-H animals, vegetables and flowers that wouldn’t be ready by June.

“4-H will resist the hardest because they have to change it up the most,” Stortz said.

For now, the two said having the carnival in June and the fair in August would allow  for more opportunities to book music and stage acts because June is the beginning of the summer fair season giving them a head start.

Stortz said having the two separate events and hiring Northstar as the carnival company is going to be a financial hurdle, but he added that the Fair Board will have to make sacrifices to have a nicer carnival.

The two didn’t want to disclose the cost of the carnival, blaming the competitive nature of the business.

Stortz made the analogy of being a farmer and though, you have neighbors, it’s still competitive.

With the pressure on and such short notice given with the carnival company to sign the contract, DeSaye and Stortz met with commissioners on Wednesday to get the go-ahead on the new plan. The commissioners gave the Fair Board permission to sign the contract with Northstar.

“If we dragged out the process, we might not have had a carnival at all,” Dawson County Commissioner Dennis Zander said Thursday.

Zander said having the two events at different times this year gives the county the option to work it out better in future years, whether it be two separate events or moving the rest of the fair to June to coincide with the carnival. Zander added that he thinks it’s a good thing to have two separate events in town, but it will take more involvement from the community in form of volunteers and sponsorships to help both events run smoothly. 

The county commissioners will be taking public comments concerning moving the date of the fair to June during the next county commissioner meeting on Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. at the Dawson County Courthouse.

Reach Kyle Vuille at

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