The heat didn’t stop people from coming out to the Washington fairgrounds Wednesday and Thursday and organizers expect big crowds for the weekend.
Fair Chairman Dale Westhoff said the Fair is off to a great start with big crowds and strong concessions sales.
“It may be hot but it doesn’t seem to be stopping people from coming out which is what we hoped,” Westhoff told The Missourian Friday morning at the fairgrounds.
“Maybe people are just used to it since it’s been so hot all summer,” he remarked. “It’s been cooling off in the evenings and we’ve had some nice breezes out here and all of that helps.”
Westhoff said the queen contest Wednesday night appeared to have a bigger than usual turnout and rising country music star Jake Owen packed the Main Stage area Thursday night.
“What a great show Jake Owen put on — it was excellent and the fairgoers loved him,” he said. “I was in awe when I saw the crowd, I couldn’t believe it. It may have been our biggest Thursday night ever.”
Westhoff estimates there were over 12,000 people on the grounds Thursday evening.
Owen did a meet and greet with some of the fans, he said, and the singer couldn’t have been more friendly. Owen’s manager also praised the new stage and warm reception the group received.
“They were impressed with the crowds, the facilities, everything,” Westhoff said.
The Fair chairman said more great entertainment is on tap for the weekend and fairgoers won’t be disappointed.
“We think Gretchen Wilson (who hails from Illinois) will be big too and I think that will be a really fun crowd,” Westhoff said. “And then it’s REO Speedwagon Saturday night and that could be huge. When they played here before (1997) it was one of the largest crowds ever and we hope that happens again.”
Closing out the Fair Sunday night will be country music singer Jerrod Niemann. Chris Cavanaugh will be the opener.
“We’ve heard a lot of good buzz on Niemann too, so we think the turnout will be good,” Westhoff said.
The new layout of the entertainment tent, featuring local and regional bands, has been well-received, he added, and was packed Wednesday and Thursday night.
A new event this year will be a benefit for the Green Beret Casualty Fund, which provides financial assistance to the families of the wounded and killed. The Green Beret A Team from the 5th Special Forces Group will be at the Fair Friday and Saturday with a military display. A special tribute is planned Friday night on the Main Stage prior to the Gretchen Wilson concert.
Westhoff said the Purina Pro Plan Performance Team, which consists of 15 talented canines, has been a hit with fairgoers of all ages. The high-flying dog show continues through Sunday with three shows each day.
The midway also features a new layout and many new rides, the chairman pointed out.
“The kids really seem to like the new rides and I hope that has a trickle-down effect and brings more kids out,” Westhoff said.
“We’ve also had good turnouts at the motor sports arena for bull riding and the rodeo and there’s lot more for the weekend with the tractor pull Friday night, the micro sprint cars Saturday and motocross Sunday,” he said.
The children’s contests have all been well attended, said Westhoff, who had a chance to check out the Hula-Hoop contest. Agri-Land, SafetyLand and all of the activities at the Family Fun Center have been popular with families, he said.
“And did I mention the Fair food, it’s awesome,” Westhoff said. “We have a lot of new items this year and the reviews have been good.”
After much prodding, the chairman admitted his favorite is the bombpops (Popsicles), but he might try the fried pickles or deep fried Twinkies before the Fair ends.
More Fun to Come
The chairman said there’s something for everyone at the Fair and he encourages everyone to come out this weekend.
“The forecast looks about the same as we’ve had with it being a little cooler on Sunday,” he said. “We are set up for the heat with cooling stations and plenty of water, but really it hasn’t been that much of an issue so I don’t think it will be this weekend either.
“We’re excited about what’s all still to come — and just like our theme, the Fair is all about making memories, so come out and make some new ones.”