New grandstand stage arrives in pieces

Thursday, July 24, 2008
(Photo by Randy M. Cauthron) A three-tractor caravan transported the new main stage for the Clay County Fair grandstand from Maurer Manufacturing, between Royal and Sutherland, where it was constructed, to the fairgrounds Wednesday morning, where it will be assembled.

Enhanced performance stage will allow fair to add seating, attract larger shows

Early delivery for Mr. Phil Hurst and the Clay County Fair.

With original projections calling for the delivery of the Clay County Fair's new performance stage for the grandstand in August, Bob Maurer delivered a bit early.

A large group of fair board members, the Spencer Ambassadors and others were on hand to watch the arrival of the state-of-the-art stage, designed to allow more personal and dynamic interaction between the Grandstand acts and audiences in the stands.

Maurer drove one of the three tractors that transported the new stage in three sections, from his workshop between Royal and Sutherland Wednesday morning.

The fair's new main stage is 48-feet wide and 70-feet long with two, adaptable 36-foot by 6-foot wings on each end.

Fully extended, the wings give artists 142 feet to roam from one end of the grandstand to another. If the wings are angled, the artist will be able to walk right up to the racetrack's barrier wall.

The two wings will be delivered at a later date.

"It's going to be a one-of-a-kind stage and, probably the largest moving stage anywhere," David Potratz, Clay County Fair Executive Board member and the fair's grandstand superintendent said in an interview in May.

"Many of the artists today go down the road with one to three semis of equipment," Potratz said.

When they arrived in Spencer, they would have to leave half their equipment in the semis because of the size of the old stage.

"With the stage of this size we can handle about any sized show today and into the future," Potratz said. "Brad Paisley has a much larger show. Brooks and Dunn has a much larger show set. If they want to put a big outdoor set on the stage, they can do it at ours."

Major artists would be possible additions in the 2009 line-up.

Currently the fair can seat about 6,000 people in the grandstand. The added seating will allow them to draw acts that require an audience of 8,000-12,000 in their contracts.

Performers will debut the new stage for the 2008 edition of the Clay County Fair. Trisha Yearwood will be the first headlining show to take the stage, opening things up on Saturday, Sept. 6 - the first day of this year's fair.

For those looking for some random trivia, it will actually be Yearwood's opening act, Rockapella that will officially deliver the first performance on the new stage.

The Dvergsten Charitable Foundation, formed by the late Irvin and Ruby Dvergsten of Spencer, provided $400,000 in funding for the stage. Clay County Fair Manager Phil Hurst said the gift will enhance the entertainment options at Spencer's signature event.

The fair had been looking for a replacement to its portable, 60-by-40 foot stage for quite some time, but incidents during last year's fair facilitated the process. The outgoing platform propped up the likes of Bill Cosby and Garth Brooks (Yearwood's husband). It also slugged through the mud after 12 inches of rain over three days -- the mud was over the stage axles when the fair hosted a Brad Paisley concert.

It broke down last fall, when organizers were trying to get it hauled out on a Saturday night. Fair officials had to enlist a welder before a Sunday show.

Fair officials first contacted Maurer about constructing the project back in 1997.

"Nothing happened," Maurer recalled in an interview in May of this year. "Then last year they came, and started talking again."

Plans for a new stage were well under way before last fall's malfunction. Maurer penciled out plans and turned them over to Jake Schoelerman of Everly, who transformed the designs into a blueprint.

Schoelerman, an engineering student in Mankato, Minn., began putting together the Computer Aided Drafting designs in May of 2007. They weren't ready for review until February of this year.

He's spent part of his summer seeing the project through: Schoelerman and Bob's grandson, Kevin Maurer, worked for the company in high school. Jeremiah Quest, Jason Guinn and Jeff Steffens have also helped with the project.

Some venues, such as the Knoxville raceway, specialize in track or racing-based events. Other venues, like the stage at the Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls are more suited for concerts.

"Ours is a combination," Hurst said. "We do both the race program and the concert series."

The larger stage also will allow the fair to incorporate track-side seating, which should be a boost to the gate totals and allow the fair to draw from a deeper pool of talent.

Bob Maurer in his 18th year as founder of Maurer Manufacturing, a company nestled between Royal and Sutherland. provided a massive workshop for the massive project.

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