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North Dakota State Fair sets record attendance

8/5/2013

By Linda McNatt

Photo courtesy of

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Four days after the close of the North Dakota State Fair, manager Renae Korslien was breathless.

She was still answering phone calls, attending meetings, tying up loose ends.

But, had she been able to breath, she would likely have been whistling a happy tune.  The fair was "wonderful," Korslien said.

The North Dakota State Fair, held annually in Minot. N.D., known as "Magic City," coming off a record year in 2012, broke attendance records once again in 2013. More than 320,000 people came through the gates from July 18 through July 26, about six times the population of the entire city. Over 10.000 more people attended in 2013, a  three percent increase over last year's record.

Minot, in northwestern North Dakota., is located 100 Miles north of Bismark and not far south of the Canadian border. The faPhoto By cility where the fair is held, with more than two dozen buildings and support facilities, is owned by the state and used year-round for various activities.

Korslien said everybody seems to agree that it was the glorious weather during the nine days of the fair that brought the people out.

The average temperature in Minot this time of year is usually between 80 and 90 degrees. The city gets an average of 43 inches of snowfall each year. But the temperature can climb  up to 100 in the summer heat. This year, things were really different.

A rain shower temporarily delayed Tim McGraw's concert, Korslien said. McGraw finally went on stage after it drizzled for three hours and performed in front of 13,074 people. He was a huge hit, she said.

"The rest of the fair, we had sunny yet cool weather," she said. "The weather really brought out families and concert goers. I think it also brought out the older folks, people who might not go out to a fair in the middle of the summer. I saw plenty of them walking around at night, really seeming to enjoy themselves."

The entertainment was a big plus. After McGraw's kickoff, Toby Keith performed before 14,142 fans. Other acts included Brantley Gilbert, Sawyer Brown, Scotty McCreery and others.

The midway, provided by Murphy Brothers was expanded with additional rides.  "It was great this year," said Kolslien. "I think everybody really enjoyed it."

The family entertainment couldn't have been better either, she said. A particular favorite was Lady Houdini, with her magic act. The bull riding competition, over two nights, brought out nearly 3,000 people. More than 2,500 attended the ranch rodeos, with free horse and pony pulls. There were draft horse events and 4-H and Future Farmers of America livestock shows, which also drew very large crowds.

The people attending the fair seemed pleased to see the Appaloosa horses and the paints back in action. The two breeds have been missing from the horse shows in the last few years.

If you were really looking for animals, you could truly find just about anything. The Bengal Tiger Encounter featured beautiful, intelligent animals. The tigers were at the fair for the third year.

A warm welcome went to one of North Dakota's favorites, Daryl's Racing Pigs, said Korslien. There was a live sting ray exhibit where you could see, touch and feed live stingrays. It was the ocean animal's first year at the fair.

The admission price for the fair was $8.00 for adults, or you could get a pass for all nine days. If only the 45,000 agricultural animals that attended the fair had been required to pay, budget problems could have been solved for a couple of years.

"It was just a pleasure to see all of the ag projects," said Korslien. "I am so proud that our agriculture base continues. The 4-H and FFA exhibits are very, very popular. It's fun to see all of the animals. Goats are becoming very popular here, and there were a lot of them at the fair this year."

One of the most popular exhibits was put on by the State's Department of Game. "Pathways to fishing offered opportunities to learn how to bait a hook, cast a line, find your own bait. People were constantly filing in and out of the exhibit", she added.

The fair attendees also liked seeing the mountain men move into the fair grounds and spend the entire time re-creating how they lived in North Dakota a century or two ago. It was a perfect setting. The re-enactors dressed, cooked and slept just as they would have had they been there during historic times.

Another popular exhibit were the four, full sized modular homes, set up in move-in condition.

"People love to see new housing," she said. "We had a devastating flood in the area just before the fair in 2011, and there are still people out there looking for housing."

And the food. What's a state fair without the food? There were hundreds of food vendors this year, featuring old favorites and some exciting new additions.

Like the chocolate turtle funnel cake, a regular funnel cake, accompanied by chocolate, caramel and pecans.

Another popular food item was poutine, the dish that won the food frenzy last year. It's made up of French fries, gravy and cheese curd. Or there is the ever popular big ball of fried cheese.

Another factor that may have helped the success of the 2013 North Dakota State Fair is that the area has seen 50 new motels move in over the past three years, Korslien said. All of that building probably has a lot to do with the economic boom northwest North Dakota is going through right now.

"People are moving to North Dakota like crazy," said Korslien. "It's a great place to be. We have a big oil boom going on, a great economy."

With the economy and the fantastic weather this year, the 2013 North Dakota State Fair was a huge success. The fair will be held next year from July 18 through July 25. Korslien and her staff are already planning for it.

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