"We love to share with you what we have to offer Sept. 8th through the 16th," Clay County Fair Association President Dave Simington said to the media audience. "We still have some of us turn on TVs, read the newspaper and listen to the radio to get information."
Clay County Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons noted that the centennial is rapidly approaching for the local fair, which began in 1917.
(Photo by Randy M. Cauthron) [Order this photo]
He noted that this year's fair will include 518 vendors, the largest farm machinery show of any fair in the United States and more than $100,000 in free entertainment.
"I think maybe it's kind of a big deal," Parsons suggested.
The fair manager outlined 10 new things people will note at the fair this year, starting with a hospitality push.
"Today's entertainment dollar is fragmented. ... People want to go to a place that's clean, a place where they treat you nice and it's fun. We want to make sure our guests are welcome here," Parsons explained.
New additions will include six different 4x6 maps at different points at the fairgrounds to help visitors understand where they are on the property. There is a new color-coded map that will be available and, in partnership with the Daily Reporter, there will be daily Fair Guides as well as pocket-sized activity schedules.
The fair will also establish a location for its Charitable Trust, which began in the mid-1990s and uses its proceeds to "repair the fair." All official Clay County Fair merchandise this year will be purchased at the Charitable Trust booth.
Perhaps the biggest addition to the fair this year is the transformation of the Old Morton Building into the Innovation Pavilion.
"I've always felt a fair's role was to bring in the latest and greatest, newest or first," Parsons said. "The concept of seeing something people have never seen before."
On the southwest corner of the grounds, the Innovation Pavilion, hosted by the Iowa Lakes Corridor, will feature 18 vendors, all local entrepreneurs, with new concepts and products.
The addition of the pavilion expands the vendor buildings to eight.
Animal entertainment shows this year will include the Aussie Kingdom, which will be accessible during fair hours, and Wildlife Wendy, who has appeared on both Jay Leno's and David Letterman's late night talk programs.
A rotation of local live entertainment will be featured on both the KICD Courtyard stage and Central Park stage throughout the fair.
"It's all about showcasing your best," Parsons said. " From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day of the fair, there will be free entertainment pieces every half-hour on a stage somewhere on the fairgrounds."
New special days this year include Iowa Wind Energy Day on Sunday, Sept. 9, Iowa Corn Day on Wednesday, Sept. 12, and 4-H Family Day on Friday, Sept. 14.
Wednesday of the fair will remain Disability Awareness Day and the fair will host more than 2,300 persons with disabilities who will receive free admission, rides and a meal while on the grounds.
New competitive events will include a Gladiolus & Gourds show on Sept. 8-9, a kid's pedal pull on Sept. 13, and Bruce Piper Raspberry Pie Contest on Sept. 14.
Sixty vendors, including nine new additions, will be offering new foods in 2012 including a pineapple whip, the original Minneapple Pie, cajun chicken on a stick, Mediterranean meatballs, Greek cuisine and more.
An 18-page Clay County Fair Food Guide is available online with a categorized list of all the food options at this year's fair.
The Ag Learning Center will offer an ISU Extension Specialist on a daily basis, local food exhibits and activities.
Parsons stressed the fair's theme, "Discover the Greatest."
"Our goal this year ... is for people to really discover the greatest," he said.