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Wyoming State Fair Brings On Everyday Ag and Grandstand Thrills
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The Wyoming State Fair, held in Douglas, Wyoming, had a successful 111th year in 2023. Running August 15 to 19, one of its highlights was the Everyday Ag event, an immersive program to educate fair attendees about agriculture.

According to the fair's general manager, Courtny Conkle, Everyday Ag's approach was meant to include everyone from city dwellers to experienced ranchers. The program encompassed the full fairgrounds, providing what she called “the perfect opportunity to learn” about agricultural traditions. It included recorded audio elements located throughout the fair, and a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt gave participants a chance to win a $500 cash prize or ag swag; completed hunt forms were turned in at fair gates.

This year the fair hosted the Champion of Champions event, in which county youth animal champions throughout the state competed against each other in the first inclusive statewide-showcase for beef, sheep, swine, and goats. A Champion of Champions Showcase allows kids who have done well in livestock showing events at local county fairs to compete statewide. Conkle said the event this year was a major production, replete with pyrotechnics, a PRCA announcer, and instead of a traditional belt buckle, winning participants received massive UFC-type belts.

Of course, fairgoers also experienced thrilling rodeo events, the beloved tradition of the Demolition Derby, and tasty food. While fair attendance numbers have still not been fully tabulated, fair officials stated that during the first five days of the fair alone, there were 30% more visitors than last year.

The fair's gate admission was $8 for ages 13 to adult, kids 4-12 were admitted for $3, with children 3 and under admitted free. A Canned Food Drive Day encouraged visitors to bring in four cans of food and then receive adult admission for just $4. On Youth Day, kids aged 12 and under were admitted free; some of the grandstand events included gate admission, offering an additional bargain for attendees.

Speaking of grandstand events, the fair had major draws in the Friday night Figure-8 motorsport races and the Saturday Demolition Derby event. On Thursday evening, Mutton Bustin' brought out the small fry as participants and many keen watchers, as the kids endeavored to stay on a sheep's back and hold on as long as possible. The PRCA Rodeo included a military appreciation tribute pre-show; there was also a Ranch Rodeo event.

Friday's Figure-8 racing was a first-time event for the fair, with a $10,000 prize for drivers able to successfully navigate the challenging course and avoid collisions. The event combines oval and road racing with elements of a demolition derby on a track designed to intentionally increase crash risk. Local drivers had the chance to navigate the track and win the prize money. The race was made even more thrilling by the fact that participants had to drive a four-cylinder car and the driver's door was welded shut with a safety net in the window. The event was priced at $20 per ticket.

Conkle pointed out that motor sports enthusiasts could take in both the Figure 8 and the Demolition Derby as one package priced at $30. The Derby has been a favorite for 40 years at the fair. Presented this year by the Douglas Volunteer Fire Department, plenty of fan-worthy automotive mayhem ensued.

Food was an event in itself. Popular food vendors offered the alluring smell of barbecue from Jackalope Catering's BBQ; mini donuts served up in a bucket from Cowboy Concessions; Sergeant Poppers' Kettle Corn and Lemonade; giant hot dogs on a stick; and the TX Twister, a popular fruity concoction served in a plastic boot. One food vendor has been coming to the fair since 1981: the Douglas Rotary. Known for its elaborate nachos, club members described the tempting nacho cheese as coming from a secret recipe. The rotary cooks up some 180 pounds of taco meat for those nachos, pans of the nacho cheese, and around 600 breakfast burritos as well.

For those in need of cooling brews, the fair presented a beer garden provided by Oregon Beverage Services which has been with the event for the last three years. Conkle noted that no local brew services applied to quaff those summer thirsts.

Also supporting the fair for the third year was Carnival Midway Attractions, the fair's midway provider. Daily ride wristbands were $30; single tickets were $1, and a sheet of 5 individual tickets was priced at $45. Carnival Midway Attractions also comes from out of state, a fourth-generation family-run carnival that is headquartered in Orange, Calif., traveling on a route that includes Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming, as well as California. The Gravitron, Zipper, and the Century Wheel thrilled adults, while little kids enjoyed riding Bumble Bees and spinning flowers.

Both strolling and performing stage acts and activities were also on hand to delight fairgoers, from the Danger Magik Show to the Trancenosis Hypnotist show, all day mini-golf, and strolling entertainers The Boondock Boys and Slim & Curly. There were plenty of exhibitions to take in too – this year, over 152 quilts were a part of the Wyoming State Fair Needlework Open Show, double the quilts that were shown in 2022. Baked goods were also in abundance in the exhibition halls, and attendees could even find giant-sized prize vegetables. There were plenty of commercial and craft vendors on the shopping midway, and the fair held a sheep wagon show and pig n' mud wrestling. The Sun Bus mobile clinic was at the fair on Friday, providing free skin cancer screening as well as sun safety tips.

Conkle asserted that “There's truly something for everyone” at the fair. These included both new offerings and a return of the Ranch Rodeo that gave attendees a look at the skills of the state's cowboys and cowgirls. Conkle called this rodeo event “a testament to western spirit in the Wyoming way of life.” She added that the fair is all about “giving back to communities, it's giving back to the state…[it's] a great way for all of us to come together…”
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