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Keeping The County Fair Alive

Before the big Eastern Idaho State Fair kicks off in September, there is a month of smaller, regional fairs around the area. But as the country looks at a possible second recession, is it responsible or even possible to keep these fairs alive?

The fairs can and will continue to exist, but never with a profit. Fairs like North Bannock County’s exist only through business donations and honest dedication.

“(It’s been) probably about, I think it’s 25, 30 years that I’ve been kind of doing this,” Marylan Whitaker said, laughing at the memory with her high-pitched giggle. She is the North Fair Superintendent and she makes the whole thing happen.

“I don’t know. At fair week when it gets close I get exasperated because it seems like I don’t have enough people to help,” she said.

Finding volunteers is a bigger issue than actually financing the fair. They do it mostly through donations, Whitaker said.

“This year’s been a little harder because of the economy but they seem to be really willing because they get their name out there. They just either donate gift certificates or some of them give us just money that we can buy items,” she said.

Except for some of the bigger events, entry to the fair is free. So the crew does not actually pocket a profit from the event. Whitaker said they just about break even, and any money that they do have left over they usually just put away for cash prizes.

But with so many people and businesses hurting in this economy, why keep these little fairs running?

Karen Andersen and her two grandsons were in the B Building entering the antiques contest. They had a pair of vintage roller skates to contribute to the sports contest, too. For her, coming to a small town fair with her family is all about the tradition.

“Well I think the kids all need to grow up with it. I grew up with it. We entered things when I was growing up. And it’s a good learning experience for the kids. And us too,” she said.

The entry days for the North Bannock County Fair started Monday and the events start Wednesday at 9 a.m. They last until the motorcycle stunt show on Saturday night.

The Mudlake Fair and Rodeo in Jefferson County is also taking place this week.

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