By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Blaine County Fair Board members said they are worried that Hill County has stepped on their toes with new Great Northern Fair dates effective next year.
The Great Northern Fair Board decided recently to change the 2006 fair dates from the second week in August to the third full week in July. The Blaine County Fair is the third weekend in July, so it would be held several days before the Hill County fair's main events begin next year.
In some years, the fairs could overlap, said Blaine County Fair Board chair George Ortner.
Upset about the decision, Blaine County fair manager Rob Reid spoke with Hill County fair manager Tim Solomon and met with the Blaine County board Wednesday night.
"Everybody's got a little better understanding of it right now," he said today. "Evidently it's going to be to the benefit of their fair to move the dates. We're just worried it will affect our fair."
Reid said the Blaine County Fair Board is invited to attend Hill County's upcoming fair meeting next week. He plans to go, he said.
"I just like to see at least a couple of weeks in between us," Ortner said. "In my opinion, they're kind of stepping on us, advertising-wise and everything else."
Hill County board members said the new dates would be more convenient for farmers and ranchers as well as for school children and would also allow the Great Northern Fair to draw more visitors because the new dates aren't so close to the dates of the Montana State Fair, which normally ends a few days before the Great Northern Fair begins.
Reid is worried about competing for talent and visitors. "It's never good having the same event going back to back," Reid said. "You're competing for the same dollars."
Fair revenues have dropped across the Hi-Line, Reid said, and it's become a problem for everyone.
"Our intent was not to jump on them; it was to fall after them," Hill County fair manager Tim Solomon said. "I don't see that it's a problem since they're first."
Solomon said the decision was made more than a year in advance of when the new fair dates take effect to give people time to respond.
Reid said he was glad to have the advance notice.
Great Northern Fair Board member Alma Seidel said the Hill County board considered Blaine County when it made its decision. When she heard of the other board's concern, she was sympathetic.
"It's not carved in rock," she said. Her main concern in advocating the new dates was that the old dates conflicted with harvest, she said.
The Hill County fair board will meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Hill County Courthouse in the Timmons Room.
"We were invited to attend. We're just going to go up and see what's happening," Reid said.