Fair events move up one day

4-H students give their lambs a warmup walk around the fairgrounds before last year’s fair livestock competitions. (Star photo by Steve Allison)


Spring is in the air, and plans are being made for the Eastern Montana Fair, which will be August 20-23. A quick glance at a calendar shows that there is a change this year. While everything else will stay the same, the fair will be held Wednesday through Saturday, instead of the usual Thursday through Sunday.

Fair Manager Gail Shaw explained that the change came because of scheduling issues with the Mighty Thomas Carnival, which has provided the rides at the fair for several years. Both the Fair Board and the Mighty Thomas Carnival like working together. The carnival has been popular with fairgoers and the board likes the carnival’s billing system. Unlike many carnivals, the Mighty Thomas organization shares in profits rather than charging a set fee.

Because the carnival wanted to return to Miles City but couldn’t stay through Sunday, and because the Fair Board wanted to keep working with them, a date change became necessary.

The other change will be in the gate fee, which is increasing by one dollar, to $3 per person per day. One dollar of the gate fee has been going into a capital improvement fund, for building and ground maintenance, for several years. However, the equipment that is used to maintain the grounds is wearing out.

“We have one little old Bobcat,” explained Shaw, adding that it breaks down regularly and is not powerful enough to maintain the arena grounds. Rather than borrowing a tractor every year, the board would like to save up enough money to buy its own tractor and be able to maintain and possibly expand its equipment with time. So the extra dollar will go to an equipment fund to help purchase and maintain mechanical equipment. 

Shaw said there will also be a new, bigger petting zoo this year. Last year’s petting zoo was a no show, with no explanation, so the board found a new zoo. While the zoo will not have any exotic animals, it will have more animals and have its own tent, to make it more comfortable for animals and animal petters. They will also have a pony ride along with the zoo.

Everything else will move back one day, with the pet show and tractor pull on Wednesday, the rodeo on Thursday, and the concert, featuring headliner Lorrie Morgan and comedian and celebrity impressionist Johnny Counterfit as the opening act, will be on Friday. The Demolition Derby will be held Saturday.

New this year will be a pedal tractor pull on Saturday. Also, the talent show will be not be an active competition, but talented competitors from years past will be invited to perform without a judging component.

The Fair Board also hopes to be accepting “plastic” this year for tickets at events. They will be able to process credit and debit cards for the first time this year for special event admissions.

While fair preparations are well underway, Shaw says they need some volunteers to help clean up the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds after a long winter. Individuals or groups are asked to contact Shaw or the board for further information at 951-1624.

Shaw also hopes to spruce up and improve the existing restrooms, especially those by the grandstand, in time for the end-of-the-summer event.