Hare raising county fair

Jacob Lane · Thursday, July 24, 2014
What makes a good egg?

"One thing about it, you want a good size, you want a good shell, when you crack them open you want a good color and consistency in the yoke," said Cory Carlson.

Carlson judged dozens of chickens and eggs as part of the Muscatine County Fair, which was held on the Muscatine County fairgrounds, July 16-20.

This year was filled with a lot of good eggs, from good weather and good attendance, to good grandstand events and good history. In fact, some might even call it great.

"I would have to say it's probably one of the best fairs we've had in a long time," said secretary and manager of the Muscatine County Fair Lori Gosenberg, "The attendance was up every day, I'd have to give most credit to the weather."

The weather wavered around 80 degrees, much more bearable than last year's consistent high of 90 degree heat beating down from a cloudless sky. It could be seen that fair attendees and show animals were much happier this time around.

This translated into larger crowds at all of the fair's events. Grandstand events, the bread and butter of the fair, brought in greater numbers for longer visits.

This year the always popular trailer race and demolition derby on Sunday, along with dirt track racing on Saturday, were accompanied by some new events. Friday saw the return of motocross racing for a second year while Thursday brought in the SandBurr Rodeo to the grounds for the first time.

"The trailer races were the most attended, but the numbers were also up for the Thursday night show. What we noticed was that people stayed in the grandstands," added Gosenberg.

The SandBurr Rodeo, which featured bucking broncos, angry bulls, barrel racing and cheeky dialogue between the announcer and head rodeo clown, was well received.

Last year the fair hosted a kiddie rodeo, which brought in several suggestions from fairgoers about bringing in an actual rodeo. The fair complied and the community loved it. The rodeo will most likely return in 2015.

That aside, buildings were stuffed with art and produce, while the 4-H and FFA programs, ever vigilant, continued to show animals and art.

The show ring was filled with businesses and community members for the annual ribbon auction on Saturday. The auction gives everyone a chance to "bid" on the animals shown at the fair.

While they don't actually take the animals home, the money they bid goes to the 4-H/FFA members who showed animals so that they can begin working on next year's show animals.

“Lots and lots of familiar faces and lots and lots of new faces,” said Auctioneer Chuck Herrold before the event. "There sure seems to be a lot of excitement going around here at the Muscatine County Fair."

Of course, there was also a hint of history in the air during the fair. The fairgrounds recently began a push to raise funds in order to preserve its many old and historical structures.

The fair board set up a stand with items for sale as well of a slideshow that highlighted the history of the fair. Fair Board member Brian Mckillip, along with others, manned the booth, reaching out to fairgoers.

"It's a kickoff, so we can show the public and the community that we want to show a vested interest in the fairgrounds, we want to make this a historic district itself," he said.

The fair board and the Muscatine Historical Preservation Commission are working to get the site listed on the National Register of Historic Places in order to bring in funding.

"We want to embrace what the flavor of the fair is right now, we want to keep the same buildings that are here now instead of doing new buildings," added Mckillip. "We want to take what we have now and fix them up so we can bring back the glory days of years gone by at the fair."

Many tried and true food vendors, stands and smaller events also returned, from a petting zoo in the kiddie barnyard to farm equipment presented by George Alt.

The Log Hoggers brought chainsaw art and an auction, the Chris Short Puppet Personality Show entertained children and the West Liberty Lions Club presented a kiddie tractor pull early on Wednesday.

Of course, fair food and fair rides satisfied and entertained the masses. Red velvet funnel cake, lemonade shake ups and gyros were stuffed down while families rode the ferris wheel, bumper cars and the zipper.
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