Lots of screams and moos begin in Steele County
If you hear lots of screams and moos coming from the Owatonna area this week, it won’t be because of anything scary, but rather excitement and thrills.
Minnesota’s largest county fair kicks into action today (Tuesday) and runs through Sunday. This year’s theme for the Steele County Free Fair is “Scream and Moo With Much to Do.”
Some traditions never go away and such is the case with the local fair. As it has been since 1928, there will be no charge to get into the fair.
Steele has consistently been the largest county fair in Minnesota. The fair typically attracts more than 300,000 people, though last year dipped to 279,000 because of dismal weather in which rain soaked the grounds on at least four days. The record attendance was set in 2013 when more than 350,000 people attended.
The grandstand took a big hit last year in which three top events were cancelled because of the weather. “It was a tough year for vendors last year,” said fair manager Jim Gleason. “We hope to have better weather this year. Say a couple extra prayers that we have a little better, more friendly weather than last year.”
Todd Hale, the fair’s publicity director, said he has a packed schedule of great entertainers coming to the fair. “I’m proud of our facilities and I always want people to leave with a good taste of our fair,” he said.
Hale said fair week is an “exciting time” for those who have been involved with the planning of it. “It’s a culmination of months of work that goes on ahead of time,” he said.
The Steele fair, Hale said, has more activities going on than any other fair in the state with the exception of the State Fair. “To jam all this into a small fairgrounds is a challenge,” Hale acknowledged. “We’ve done a pretty good job of what people want at the fair. We do a good job of keeping the fair interesting.”
There are several new twists to the fair this year, according to Gleason. “We try to do something new every year to keep it the best fair in Minnesota,” he said, adding fairgoers like to have a variety of old and new things to do.
Fairgoers taking in the entertainment at the Fair Square Stage should notice some better sound this year. The fair has added a new sound booth. The grounds crew built the new booth and it will offer protection from the outdoor elements.
Sound isn’t the only improvement on the grounds. New fencing has been added around the beer garden and new cement on the north side of the beer garden.