2008 State Fair: Rain doesn’t dampen attendanceWritten by Jennifer Womack
“Certainly, in my time on the board and in my recent memory of attending the fair, this year’s fair was one of the best,” says WSF Advisory Committee Chairman Bryce Reece. “When you can increase attendance, given the current economic situation with fuel prices, it’s a testament to the work the WSF Staff and Wyoming Department of Ag did.”
WSF Director James Goodrich says some livestock numbers were down, but notes overall attendance on the grounds and at the grandstand events was up. “By and large everyone was pleased with how the grandstand events went,” he says. Attendance at the ranch rodeo doubled in attendance over last year. Although Friday night’s rodeo attendance was lower than organizers would have hoped, Goodrich says attendance was up for the Thursday evening bull riding and the Saturday rodeo performance.
WSF’s focal point is always the kids. Wyoming FFA Association State Reporter Marti Brown says it’s an opportunity for the state’s youngsters to learn responsibility. As she and fellow officers helped at shows across the grounds, she says, “I love being a role model. I like to show other kids all of the good things FFA can bring them.” As 4-H and FFA youth are awarded their winnings, members of the Wyoming State FFA Officer team are often the first to shake their hands and tell them congratulations.
“I’m always up in the mountains helping my parents so this is my first year at State Fair,” says Wyoming FFA Association Secretary Jessie Allen, whose parents have an outfitting business. “I think that a big lesson that I’ve watched some kids learn is that they don’t always win. It’s sad to watch when they lose, but they take it well and learn. They’re also learning to make new friends since we all stay in the dorms together.”
Wyoming FFA Association President Ty McNamee says, “I love talking with the FFA members. I think you’re able to impact their lives a lot more as a state officer.” WSF goes a long way in helping Ty meet his goal of meeting as many FFA members as possible during his tenure as a state officer.
New at this year’s fair was a gathering place in the dorms with a big screen television, foosball tables and more. Goodrich says it was a hit among young fair participants and provided them a place to make new friends and take a break after the shows.
Success of the Ashton Shepherd and Bellamy Brothers concert, the first concert in several years, drew excitement grounds-wide. “We had between 2,100 and 2,300,” says Goodrich of the concert, with final accounting still underway with ticket outlets. “That’s a very good, responsive crowd. It’s a welcome addition. We have some ideas for next year, but haven’t talked about any one in particular.”
Reece says the much talked about “Mustang Challenge,” which took place in the new equine center, was also a huge success. “The new equine building is rated for 750 people and there was standing room only on Saturday,” says Reece. It wasn’t the only time the new red barn filled with fair enthusiasts, with over 1,000 lining up for steaks served by the Converse County CowBelles and Converse County Bank following the Ranch Rodeo on Aug. 10.
“The new equine barn added to the activity,” says Goodrich. “We just barely finished that barn in time to have fair with that building. The only thing we didn’t have was a sound system.” As the rain came down toward week’s end there were many people saying, “Glad we have these barns done.”
As Goodrich looks ahead to next year, he says they’re always looking to improve the event. With the top six market lambs disqualified because they didn’t meet the now-in-place tail docking rule, he says those regulations will be revisited this fall. “It’s an unfortunate situation and it hasn’t been easy to address,” says Goodrich. “We’re going to continue to try and address it.”
“There’s always room for improvement and we’ve identified some of those areas and will continue to work on those,” says Goodrich of what he hopes to be an ever-improving WSF. “We’ll have the landscaping, the show rings and the artwork done by 2009, and the campground electrical upgrade in place,” says Goodrich.
“Thanks to everyone for their support in coming out,” says Goodrich. “We had good crowds on the mid-way and at the grandstand events.”