“We are trying to cram 2020 and 2021 all into one year.”
That was a comment from one fair-goer this past weekend and it seemed to reflect the sentiment for this year’s Carver County Fair, which was back Aug. 11-15 after a one-year absence due to the pandemic.
Final numbers were still coming in Monday, but 2021 appears to be a record year for attendance, buoyed by five days of great weather and a desire for live in-person events.
Fair attendants ran out of wristbands Saturday – some 15,000, according to fair administration staffers, and the grandstand was sold out Sunday with a crowd of 4,000 watching the demolition derby that typically concludes fair action.
Meanwhile, fair vendors reported a brisk business. Many said they struggled with food supplies and high product prices given demand and fulfillment issues in the wake of the pandemic, but they still managed to feed the masses.
Here are some fair numbers:
• 600 pounds of walleye served at The Depot
• Some 450-500 pounds of potatoes sliced and deep fried in a day at the French fry stand
• 1,300 glasses of lemonade served by Lemon Heaven on Sunday
• More than 1,000 bags of mini-donuts prepared during the fair, or some 16,000-20,000 individual donuts
While some vendors didn’t have exact numbers, the kettle corn stand served up bushels of popped kernels and the American Dairy Association stand went through a freezer full of 25-30-gallon tubs of ice cream, servers reported. And safe to say thousands of corn dogs and pronto pups were consumed over the five days of the fair.
Finally, in what turned out to be almost perfect timing Rolling Hearth Bistro sold its 1,250th and last available wood-fired pizza Sunday evening as the fair started to wind down.
One new fair offering this year was COVID-19 vaccines available through Carver County Public Health in the new Carver Commons building.
The shots weren’t nearly as popular as the cheese curds or other fair attractions, with just 11 fair-goers taking advantage of the opportunity during three fair clinic times.
“We just hope people who come to the fair are already vaccinated,” one county public health nurse said Friday, ironically as Carver County transmission rates continued to rise after a steady decline since April.
“Our overall goal with offering vaccines during the fair was to make it as accessible as possible to those wanting to get vaccinated,” said Richard Scott, Health Services director. “We also wanted to make sure residents and other fair-goers had the chance to ask questions and connect with Public Health for support.”
In a further sign of the times, two cows in the dairy and beef barn were named Fauci, director of the nation’s infectious disease institute; and Pandemic.
Other fair musings
What would summertime be without flowers and what would the fair be without judging those blooms?
Outside the entertainment building on Friday, 10 contestants lined up for a floral arranging contest. Contestants had just a few minutes to prepare a pleasing arrangement of collected flowers for judges.
There were no criteria for the event, according to one Carver County Horticultural Society judge, noting “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Judges were able to narrow down five winners who received cash prizes of $25, $20, $15, $10 and $5 – and everyone was able to bring home a lovely arrangement.
In another unique judging event, the 4-H show champs in each livestock animal class compete in “round robin” showing all other animals. Round robin is the culminating animal show on Sunday, the last day of the fair, demonstrating all-around animal knowledge and showmanship versatility.
At Sunday’s show, a temperamental sheep escaped the show ring and ran toward the exotic animal exhibit. Fortunately, astute rescuers were able to identify and retrieve the sheep within about five minutes as the show continued. Emily Barden was this year’s round robin champ.