By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Great Northern Fair Board won't reconsider the new dates for the fair, despite the concerns of the Blaine County Fair Board.
"I think it's going to be real tough on both fairs," Blaine County Fair Board chair George Ortner told the Great Northern board Tuesday night.
Blaine County Fair Board members said they're worried that the two fairs will be competing for the same audience, the same dollars, and potentially, the same acts.
In the past, the Great Northern Fair has been held the second week in August. But the board decided recently that Hill County's fair should be held the third full week of July to avoid conflict with the Montana State Fair and the Missoula County Fair. The Blaine County Fair runs the third weekend in July.
Most years, the Blaine County Fair will end the weekend before the Great Northern Fair begins, but in some years, when July begins on a Sunday, the fairs may overlap, members of both boards agreed at a Great Northern Fair Board meeting on Tuesday. July 2007 begins on a Sunday.
Even without the possibility of an overlap, "Two days in between just isn't hardly enough days," Ortner said.
Hill County fair manager Tim Solomon suggested that the two boards work together ahead of time to reduce some of the possible competition.
"That happens to be the only week in the whole summer that worked for us," he said.
The problem with the current Great Northern Fair's dates began several years ago, when Missoula County changed its dates, board member Julie Strauser said.
Missoula County's Western Montana Fair is set for Aug. 9-14, the same dates as this year's Great Northern Fair.
"Missoula jumped on us," she said. Before the Missoula date change, the Great Northern Fair and the Western Montana Fair had contracts with the same rodeo and carnival companies, Great Northern Fair Board member Alma Seidel said today.
Hill County lost its carnival contract to Missoula County, and contracted with another company, but it meant the carnival had to close earlier on Sunday. The Great Northern Fair still uses the same rodeo company, but the company does its Friday show in Missoula, before coming to Hill County for Saturday and Sunday. That forced Hill County to move the demolition derby from Sunday to Friday night.
"If we don't change, or do something different, we're not going to have a fair," Strauser said.
The committee discussed other possible problems with the new dates.
Willard Fladager attended Tuesday's meeting in order to share his concern over the new date. He puts on exhibits for Waddell and Reed at both the Blaine and Hill county fairs, he said, and he guessed that about 15 other companies have exhibits at both fairs. An overlap in dates would be a major problem for exhibitors, and the time crunch in between the two fairs is at least a minor one, he said.
Seidel said she has heard from one small business owner who normally buys animals from the 4-H clubs of both counties. That person said that without some distance between the two dates, the buyer would have to purchase at only one county fair each year, and perhaps alternate between fairs.
Hill County fair board chair Steve Faber said the powwow committee at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation normally purchases $7,000 in fair carnival tickets for children who help clean up after the powwow in early August. Beginning in 2006, the fair would fall before the Rocky Boy powwow.
Nobody on the Hill County fair board suggested reconsidering the dates.
The current dates aren't ideal for booking carnivals, the rodeo or the demo derby and they are not convenient for local farmers and ranchers, Strauser said.
"The community is not happy with our dates now," she said.