MARSHALL - So far, Lyon County fair organizers say, the free admission has made a big impact on attendance.
Pat Verly, the fair board chairman, said he helped park cars Wednesday night and noticed a definite increase in attendance from previous years.
"They are coming and saying they will come back tomorrow," Verly said. "They don't have to see everything at once. Someone told me he hadn't been to the fair in 10 years."
Photo by Karin Elton
From left, Katie Hjermstad of Ghent helps her daughter Harper feed a pygmy goat while Xavier Rabaey, 4, of Marshall looks on. The goats and other animals were a popular attraction Thursday at the Lyon County Fair in Marshall.
Verly said he doesn't think the fair has ever had free admission and parking.
"This year you can come as many times as you want to," he said. "We're just five minutes away. Some people come just to eat."
The Holy Redeemer food stand volunteers can attest to that. Business has been good, said one of the organizers.
"Our money from the first night (Wednesday) is almost double from the first night last year," said Jen Keely.
In addition to free admission making it more attractive to stop in for a bite to eat, the weather has cooperated this year. Inclement weather caused the food stand to close two nights last year, Keely said.
"Mother Nature has to smile on you," Verly said.
Keely has high hopes for a "very successful" food stand this year.
"It's a great fundraiser and gets a lot of parishioners working together," she said.
Keely said they brought back last year's pulled pork.
"It was very popular," she said. "We added that to our standards - beef commercial, homemade pies, walking tacos, burgers, Schwan novelty ice cream and Pepsi products."
The Holy Redeemer food stand is an old stand-by of the fair. The Timberworks Lumberjack Show is something new. The show pits two competitors in seven events, said owner Dave Weatherhead. The events include log rolling, speed climbing, cross cut sawing and using a chain saw. They will have three shows a day today and Saturday.
"We travel all over North America," he said.
Weatherhead said the lumberjack skills are "physically demanding. Just doing it keeps you in shape."
Someone who gets to sit down at his job is Wally Zerebko. Wally and his wife, Kathy, run the Zerebko Zoo-tran, which is a traveling petting zoo.
"It's back by popular demand," said Verly.
The kids are a big draw, but sometimes they get loose, Zerebko said.
"If they go into the street they have to go to kid time out," he said, referring to a small pen behind his table.
He said children have to sit down while they pet the baby goats so there is no danger of dropping them. When the senior citizen trolley stops by, Zerebko takes a kid to them for an up-close look and easy petting.
The lumberjack show and petting zoo are just two of the attractions at the Lyon County Fair and are free. Verly said he is looking forward to Monroe Crossing, a gospel bluegrass band. The Sherwin Linton Show will be a big draw as well, he said. The Song of the Prairie Sweet Adeline Chorus will perform today instead of Thursday, Verly noted.
In addition to music, midway rides are always fun and this year the armbands are good all day instead of just for certain hours.
"Fifteen dollars give you access to all the rides, plus tokens for food or games," Verly said. "On Saturday, the rides start at noon."
Inbetween all that free entertainment, rides and exhibits is the fair food such as deep-fried green beans, deep-fried cheesecake, macaroni and cheese on a stick and deep-fried bananas.
"There are no calories in fair food," said Chad Krog, the owner of Midwest Concessions.
While the food isn't fat free, a good deal of the fair is free and shouldn't be missed, Verly said.
"Everything is free except for the rides, grandstand shows and the food," Verly said. "Check us out - it doesn't cost anything. If you haven't been to the fair in a long time - you've lost your excuse."