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South Dakota State Fair Experience the Magic
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According to South Dakota State Fair assistant manager Candi Briley, the South Dakota State Fair, which closed September 3rd, lived up to its tag line this year “Experience the Magic.”

Briley sites examples such as The Stardust Circus, a thrill-inducing acrobatic event that included a “famous motorcycle stunt sphere” and a female aerialist who “does her aerial act by her hair.”

Some new fair foods offered their own magical taste: smoked chicken legs, German food treats, and sweet tea in collectible mugs. And, possibly the most popular new item: the Wonderstick, soft serve ice cream at each end of a long, curved, gluten-free churro-like treat. The company dubs it “the first cone that tastes better than the ice cream,” although the multi-flavored soft-serve fillings were a treat, too. Of course, the regular fair favorites like corn dogs and funnel cakes were also widely available.

And then there was the musical line up, featuring big name acts like Toby Keith, Night Ranger and Foreigner, and Sawyer Brown and Gary Allan. Fireworks followed Keith’s Friday stint on stage. A local twist added to the fun at the Foreigner concert: the choir from Leola High School joined the band to perform backup harmonies for “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

On smaller stages, professional magicians and the Wildflowers, dubbed the “Judds of South Dakota” also attracted attention from fairgoers.

Each grandstand performance highlighted the 100th birthday of the South Dakota State Fair Grandstand itself. A commemorative video played each night, according to state fair manager Peggy Besch. Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were used to promote the grandstand celebration as well as the fair itself.

Top regional bands performed nightly too, including stints at the fair’s Beer Garden which was open from 11 am to 2 am during the fair. The Beer Garden was a part of the newest entertainment venue at the fair, The Midway Roadhouse. By day, fairgoers enjoyed acts such as acoustic musicians and jugglers. At night, it became a full-fledge outdoor concert area, featuring full bands.

There was a return of local favorites this year with Red Wilk Construction Tuff Hedeman Bull Bash, a thrilling riding adventure produced by the four-time World Champion bull rider and Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer Tuff Hedeman.
An entirely different event also proved popular: cheese sculpting demonstrations by artist Doug Dutenhoffer.

And of course, livestock, a ride-packed carnival, and a celebration of the grandstand’s 100th year added to the fair-going fun. The carnival added a new ride this year, The Puppy Roll. South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks provided a new adventure; a scavenger hunt around the fair grounds.

Admission prices were reasonable for the fair – and there were also free entrance options on specific dates. Daily adult admission was just $6, children ages 6-15 were $4, with under 6-year-olds admitted free. There was free admission after 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and after 3 p.m. on Mondays. A daily family pass for two adults and four children was just $20, and a weekly value pass for four adults was $80. Briley cited other promotions too, including free admission for 4-H members, and veterans as well as active military. Discounts were also available including a non-perishable food drive that gave participants $2 off gate admission daily between 7 and 11 a.m.

Gates opened early every day, with fair hours beginning at 7:00 a.m. daily.

The carnival opened at noon on Thursday and Friday and 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. A daily wristband for the rides was $25, and rides were provided by Gold Star Amusements.

Offering a free gate admission and stimulating interest in the fair itself besides, on Wednesday, Aug. 29, was Channel Seeds Preview Day. Preview Day allowed attendees to take a sneak look at the fair before its official opening. The carnival opened at 5 p.m. with rides only $1 each. The Red Wilk Construction Tuff Hedeman Bull Bash opened the grandstand entertainment at 8 p.m.

On Thursday, Value Added Ag Day, the South Dakota Dairy Producers hosted the 19th annual Ice Cream Social.

And on Friday, Prostrollo Motors Day, the company offered $1 discount off fair admission prices with a coupon available prior to the fair at the dealership.

Attendance was up this year, Besch says, with 217,231 people attending, an increase of 2.5 percent from 2017, and grandstand ticket revenue was up 56%.

Among the popular attractions were a local talent competition sponsored by Dakotaland Federal Credit Union, offering more than $2,000 in cash prizes along with a 3-hour recording session and a chance to perform at the fair next year and emcee 2019’s competition as well. This year’s winner was 18-year-old Alexis Urena from Huron. The talent competition was held on the fair’s NorthWestern Energy Freedom Stage.

Also popular: SD Farmers Union Farmer’s Share Luncheon event on Saturday, which was SD Farmers Union Day. From 11:30 to 12:30 p.m., attendees paid just $0.30 for a $10-value meal, in an effort to point out the farmer’s share of retail food dollars, while providing a veritable feast.

New events this year also enjoyed strong attendance, including an open class cake decorating competition honoring the grandstand anniversary, homemade pie competition, and a homemade beer and wine contest. Besch notes that the open class floriculture was another new event that drew scores of participants.

Exhibitions included a kiosk in which healthy food choices were the subject, and a robotic dairy milker that appealed to curiosity seekers and farmers alike.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture and the South Dakota Winegrowers Association teamed up for a wine pavilion featuring South Dakota wines. South Dakota hand-crafted beers were also back for sampling and sales along with packaged cheeses and specialty foods from South Dakota manufacturers.

Besch cites livestock as a continuing draw with “baby chicks, hens, dairy bottle calves” as well as piglets born during the fair.

Between midway lights and baby animals, fairgoers had a fine – or rather, magical - time at the fair on Labor Day weekend.
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