By Pete Soyer
The tents are up, the rides are ready, the food is cooking and the dunking booth is full. The Great Northern Fair opened its doors for business at noon today.
"Things are going very well," fair manager Mike Spencer said this morning. Spencer was setting up the free stage in the arena for tonight's grandstand entertainment.
Musical group Wylie and the Wild West and hypnotist Michael Mezmer are performing on the stage at 7 tonight.
The new parking lot is done and ready for cars. The lot got some use early today; one car was parked there this morning, Spencer said. The new lot covers about five acres on the southeast side of the fairgrounds, across from the Hill County Sheriff's Office. Access is from West Second Street.
North Star Amusements arrived at the fairgrounds Monday about 1 p.m. and carnival workers were doing final preparations this morning to be ready for their noon opening. The food court also was ready, Spencer said.
Spencer said his crew of workers was "fabulous" this year.
Linda Ferguson, the fair secretary, and Karen Kamla, the cashier, were in the fair office fielding phone calls and last-minute advance ticket sales this morning.
Ferguson said about 2,600 advance all-day carnival tickets have been sold already, "but it's not noon yet" so there might be more.
Ferguson said about 10,000 people attend the fair every year, but there is no accurate way to count them because the gates are open for people to come and go.
Kamla added that people come from Rocky Boy, Chinook, and up and down the Hi-Line. "People come from all over," she said.
The midway was buzzing with generators powering the rides and carnival workers running around doing last-minute preparations.
The ferris wheel, Gravitron, Kamikaze, Zipper, Paratrooper, and carousel are among the 20 rides that were up this morning.
Fairgoers can test their skills and win stuffed animals and other prizes for themselves or their significant other at the 18 different midway games the carnival brought. The carnival also brought two food booths.
North Star Amusements, based in Casper, Wyo., is in its sixth year with the Great Northern Fair.
The food court was also buzzing with activity. People in the food booths were putting finishing touches on their booths and food to meet the noon opening.
The food court will house 11 different food booths this year. The United Way and Veterans of Foreign Wars will not be open this year due to a lack of volunteer workers, Spencer said.
Montana State University-Northern, Jaycees, Optimists, Sons of Norway, Senior Citizens Group, Kiwanis, Boy Scouts No. 438, 4-H Chuckwagon and Havre Youth Hockey all have booths set up.
Members of the Lions Club were making pronto pups this morning, sticking the sticks into the hotdogs before they're dipped in batter.
"Nowhere in the world sells pronto pups like we do," Lions member Ray Patrick said.
The members said they use about 2,500 pounds of hot dogs during their four-day run at the fair. They can't get an accurate number of hot dogs because they "haven't talked anyone into counting them," Patrick said.
All the money from the booth stays in Havre and all the supplies for the booth are purchased in Havre, they said.
The money from the booth has gone to the Lions baseball field, Lions Campground, Senior Citizens Center, Havre Community Pool, eye care and hearing care and lots of other charities in town.
The swimmers from the Lions swim team do a lot of volunteering during the fair, Lions member Dan Weidinger said.
The Soroptomists were putting some finishing touches on their booth this morning too.
Evelyn Anderson, a worker at the booth, said the club has been preparing for about a month. All of the proceeds from the Soroptomists go to a charity in town, she said. Donations have been made to the H. Earl Clack Museum, as well as other places in Havre. A charity had not been designated for this year's proceeds as of this morning.
All of the products for the booth are purchased locally, Anderson said.
The 4-H exhibit building opened today at 1 p.m. and all other commercial exhibit buildings open Thursday at noon.
Today is Kids Day at the Great Northern Fair so all-day carnival tickets for all ages are $12. On Thursday, all-day carnival tickets will sell for $17.