The manager of the Great Northern Fairgrounds told the fair board at its monthly meeting Tuesday that a local group is interested in picking up the rodeo at the annual Hill County fair.
“They wanted to have a meeting with me first. I don’t know if they’re ready to come out yet … ,” manager Tim Solomon said. “We’ll see where they’re at. I told them it would be nice (to know) before we go to convention in November.”
A representative of the local association that put on the rodeo at the Great Northern Fair for the past three years told the board at its July meeting that it would no longer do so. Clint Solomon said problems with fair management led to their decision.
Association member and fair board member Chad Murnin, who could not attend this month’s meeting, said in August that the group had lost $6,000 putting the rodeo on this year.
Board member Gus Sharp said Tuesday that the board needs to be sure the group putting on the rodeo knows what it is doing.
“I think we want to be very, very cautious when we start talking about who we are going to give that to,” he said. “My mother could put on a rodeo, but not a very good one. She doesn’t know how to do that.”
Tim Solomon said the group that approached him is experienced in rodeo.
“We will put on a rodeo,” board chair Bert Corcoran said.
“We will have it, it’s just if this is going to be the group that does it,” Tim Solomon said.
He said, after Sharp asked if the board would have to approve the contract, that all of the contracts including the rodeo contract are approved by the fair board.
Sharp said he has been talking to people about events at the fair and is confident that with some promotion the fair can have all of them and have 1,000 to 1,500 people a night in the arena and going to the food booth and carnival and other fair attractions.
“It’s just like everything else,” he said. “We’ve got to be promoters not demoters.”
The board also discussed the carnival, which met widespread criticism at this year’s fair, with several favorite attractions like the Zipper missing from the rides.
The board gave the three-year contract with Brown’s Amusement, which brought its carnival to Montana for the first time this year, after canceling its contract with Royal West Amusement.
That carnival also had started receiving criticism from fairgoers in 2012, and when it lost its ability to guarantee it could bring enough rides, the fair board canceled its contract.
Solomon said during the July board meeting that Brown’s had met its contractual obligation by bringing enough rides, but had not brought some expected rides that were down for maintenance.
Several people at Tuesday’s meeting said the carnival needs to be better next year.
Kelly Compton of Havre Youth Baseball Association, which runs the beer gardens at the fair, said the board needs to make sure Brown’s brings better rides, and to let people know.
“I think that’s one thing that the fair has to do is really promote their carnival,” she said. “We just had such backlash because of the level of rides, to get people to pre-buy tickets is going to be very hard.”
Solomon agreed, adding that the owner of Brown’s is aware that people were not happy with the carnival and that he thinks the carnival will bring better rides and the board can promote that.
He added that people did compliment the carnival as far as how clean and well-run it was.
Sharp said keeping up the reputation of events up is something the board needs to be careful with, especially with events that it has spent years of time and effort building up, whatever the event is.
“Unfortunately, it only takes one bad experience, you know, and then you got to spend a bunch of time building it back up,” he said. “I just think that’s something we want to be very cautious about.”