Jeremy Parsons, in his first year as fair manager/secretary, told the large gathering, "Phil (Hurst, the retired manager) set the standard high."
Parsons continued, "Any time you take over something called 'the world's greatest,' your bar is set pretty high."
George Moriarty, treasurer for the Clay County Fair Board, related the dollars and cents of the 2011 fair, pointing out a 19.36 percent increase in operating revenue from the previous year, compared to just an 8.38 percent operating expense increase.
"We had the most successful fair financially, to my knowledge," Moriarty said.
Parsons outlined several new additions to the fair for 2012. In addition to new food contests, he touched on the Innovation Pavilion - formerly the Old Morton Building - which will house local agriculture and entrepreneurial efforts. The Iowa Lakes Corridor will host the facility.
(Photos by Randy M. Cauthron)
Parsons noted an $8 general admission ticket will allow fair visitors the chance to enjoy more than $110,000 of free entertainment daily.
"This fair is bigger than all of us here," Parsons said. "It's a huge event that takes on a life of its own."
He also indicated the fair is going to go out of its way this year to make sure visitors feel at home. There will be six large maps on the ground to try and make it easier for guests to locate where they are and find out how to get to specific destinations. Parsons added that efforts are in progress to establish specific pick-up locations for the shuttle so people will know where to wait.
Parsons asked the crowd to help "be ambassadors" for the fair.
Dan Skelton, heading up the charitable trust for the fair, suggested a renewed effort will begin to generate funding.
He explained Parsons has worked with a charitable trust in the past.
"He's convinced us a charitable trust could be a great asset to us," Skelton said. He pointed to both large and small project funding needs and the upcoming centennial celebration as a pair of reasons to generate supportive dollars for the fair.
A $5 collectors pin for the fair will be sold and the trust will have physical presence on the ground during the nine-day event.
"We're working toward what I believe will be the greatest fair in many years," Skelton said.