By Ron VandenBoom
Visitors to this year's Great Northern Fair will notice several changes to the grounds particularly how you get on the grounds.
A fence that runs the length of the north side of the grounds now blocks the old main entrance that faced Highway 2. Guests to the fair that were accustom to parking in the Holiday Village Shopping Center and making the dash across the highway to the main entrance will find their route blocked this year.
The new main entrance is on the extreme west end of the parking area facing 19 Avenue while other entrances on the south side of the grounds facing Second Street will remain open as always.
Additional parking has been made available to fairgoers courtesy of Havre Ford.
Havre Ford will be participating in the annual "Brawl at the Mall" sale in the Holiday Village parking lot and has agreed to allow fairgoers to park on their lot during the fair.
The Great Northern Fair's miniature passenger train will be making regular runs between Havre Ford's lot and the fairgrounds picking up and dropping the elderly or disabled that might find the distance too far to walk.
Visitors are reminded however that due to the limited number of parking spaces for patrons of the Super 8 Motel, their parking lot will not be open for public parking.
A greater number of parking spaces are also expected on the fairgrounds itself thanks to the work done last year to eliminate the saline seep problem that plagued the grounds for years.
According Mike Spencer, manager of the Great Northern Fair, much of the available space was not used in past years because of the swampy conditions and chances of getting stuck.
That problem has largely been solved and visitors can now park in areas that before might have been a problem.
He also noted that dust will be less of a problem this year because the main roads in the parking area have been paved.
Other improvements to the fairgrounds include extensive work to beautify the beer gardens.
The gardens, formerly a place with a serious weed problem where wood chips were strewn on the ground to keep the dust down, the garden has been transformed into a more garden-like pavilion with six new trees, grass, and gravel pathways.
At least two new concrete picnic tables have been added this year and a new canopy over the bar is also a part of the improvements.
None of the improvements have been paid for with taxpayer funds and all of the improvements have been donated or paid for through fund-raisers.
Other changes at the fair may go unnoticed by many patrons too busy enjoying the entertainment to see them.
Spencer has continued to beautify the grounds with trees and landscaping and close examination of the camping area will reveal new lilac trees that have been added this year.