By Samantha Clawson
The Great Northern Fair's logo this year was Fair 'n' Fun. But it could have been Fair 'n' Food. Or Fair 'n' Rides or Fair 'n' Food. Or Fair 'n' Spend Lots of Money. Or better yet, Fair 'n' Food.
"We came up for the pronto pups," said Shelli Fisk of North Havre as she strolled near the pig exhibit last week.
Like many other folks, Darcy Zook was also there for the food. The main draw for her was "an Optimist Club bratwurst," she said. Other relished treats included cheese fries, scones, and steak-on-a-stick.
Apart from the calorie frenzy, games were a draw, at least for one man. Rocky Boy resident Shane Patacsil's favorite activity was the ring toss, he said "because I won."
Cindy Kafka came to the fair with her mother and her grandmother to socialize. "I like seeing friends I don't see all year long," she said. Her grandmother, Verlie Hanson, came to watch her great-grandchildren in the Youth Rodeo. As of yet, her great-great-grandchildren, the fifth generation of their family at the fair, were too young to participate in the rodeo.
Between 30,000 and 35,0000 people attended the Great Northern Fair during its run from Wednesday to Sunday, about the same as in prior years. "We had great night shows and turnouts," fair manager Mike Spencer said. Wednesday's night show, featuring Wylie and the Wild West, pulled in more than 1,000 people and the Demolition Derby was sold out.
People discovered that after adding up the cost of ride tickets, food, and major entertainment, they had spent a lot of money.
Barry Donoven from Kremlin estimated he would spend between $200 and $300 during the entire fair.
Marcia Wendland of Rudyard spent more than $100 at the fair but luckily she had planned ahead. In anticipation of the fair, she said, her family had managed to save "a hundred dollars at least."
Zook couldn't be sure but says her family had spent "too much."
People who thought they were spending too much money had some ideas on how to refine the fair to be less expensive.
Shannon Hayward of Havre disapproved of the costs of the rides. "Parents shouldn't have to pay to take their 2-year-olds on the ferris wheel," she said. Zook also thought rides for children were too expensive. "Change the kids' rides, they should be 50 cents, not a dollar," she said. "It's too much. Kids can't afford to ride."
Patacsil thought the wrist band tickets $17 at the fair for a full day of rides and $12 in advance cost too much. He had this suggestion to make: "Have the carnival tickets selling at $12 during the fair."
Other people planned ahead to save money. "I bought my tickets ahead," said Barb Mooney.
Even if money wasn't an issue, fair goers had other ideas about how the fair could be improved.
Kafka, who uses a wheelchair, had a practical suggestion for the Great Nothern Fair board better accessibility for wheelchairs throughout the fairgrounds. Parking was also a problem for some of the people at the fair. "I remember when I was little there were people that were directing (cars) to open parking spots," Fisk said.
Other people craved more variety in rides at the fair. Donoven remembered when there used to be bumper cars and bumper boats. Wendland would like to see "a few different younger kids' rides." The fair rides are provided by North Star Amusements.
Nobody had any suggestions on how to improve the food, although Kafka, possibly in anticipation of feeding her large family, said she didn't like the cost of the "expensive food."