Less than a month away, preparations for the Washington Town and Country Fair are heating up.
“Planning is on schedule and we’re getting excited for opening day,” said Chairman Dale Westhoff, who is marking his 10th year on the Fair Board.
“We’ll start marketing the Fair pretty heavily in the coming weeks, both on TV and radio,” he said.
Beginning this week, fencing will start to go up at the city fairgrounds and after that ground prep work will begin with the gatehouses being erected first.
The 2012 Fair will open Wednesday, Aug. 1, and run through Sunday, Aug. 5.
Two pre-Fair events, the run/walk and parade, will again take place the weekend before to help build excitement for the five-day festival.
This year’s theme is “Making Memories” and Westhoff said that’s what the Fair is all about.
“I think everyone has lots of memories of the Fair, both as a kid and adult, and we want them to come out again this year and make many more,” he said. “We’ll have five days of entertainment and excitement for the whole family to enjoy.”
Asked about the heat, Westhoff said the Fair Board will be prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings, but he would like to avoid the triple-digit temperatures.
“I’ve ordered cooler weather,” he joked. “It’s always hot for the Fair and I think people expect that. We’ll have plenty of misters and cooling stations to keep fairgoers comfortable.”
Season passes are now on sale and the chairman encourages people to purchase their tickets from any of the Fair queen candidates, at the numerous retail outlets or online.
Westhoff said the Washington Fair queen will be crowned opening night and top ticket-sellers will be recognized. The contest will begin at 8:30 p.m. on the Main Stage.
Season pass sales, he said, are critical to the success of the Fair.
One Ticket Price
“As always, a season pass to the Fair lets you enjoy all of the activities for just one low price,” Westhoff noted.
“The motor sports events, carnival rides, Agri-Land, livestock shows and the chairman’s event, featuring the most agile, high-flying long-jumping dogs ever, sponsored by the Purina Pro Plan Performance Team, are all included in that ticket price,” he said.
“And if you like music, we have a lot of music this year — five days of local and regional bands playing in the entertainment tent and four nights of Main Stage entertainment featuring Jake Owen, Gretchen Wilson, REO Speedwagon and Jerrod Niemann — all included in your season pass admission,” Westhoff said.
The chairman said he’s “excited” about the music headliners and expects large crowds.
“Country music singer Jake Owen is really hot right now and should be a big hit for Thursday night. He has a lot of songs playing on the radio now which is great timing for us,” he said. “I also think Gretchen Wilson Friday night will be a really good show. She’s from Illinois and will likely bring a following.”
The headline act of REO Speedwagon on Saturday night should draw the largest crowds, Westhoff said.
“We’ve heard a lot of good buzz about REO coming and people are excited, very excited,” he said.
REO Speedwagon last played at the Washington Fair in 1997 to big crowds.
“People still talk about that show and how great it was,” Westhoff said. “We could get close to 20,000 people on the grounds Saturday night if the weather is good.”
Country singer Jerrod Niemann will perform on Sunday, the final night, with Chris Cavanaugh as his opening act.
“We’re excited to have an opener. They made us a sweet deal to have him (Cavanaugh) play so we jumped at it,” Westhoff said. “We used to have opening acts a long time ago, but with the increased costs for entertainment we can’t always do that.”
New Concert Stage
The new concert stage and event center, currently under construction just north of Lions Lake along Veterans Drive, will be a great addition to the grounds this year, Westhoff said.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the stage. This is something we’ve talked about for so long and it’s finally happening,” he remarked.
“We can’t thank the community enough for their support with this project,” the chairman added. “It will give the fairgrounds a whole new look and the entertainers will love it. In fact, I think it will be easier to book some entertainers because many of them want a permanent facility due to safety concerns.”
The facility is a partnership between the city and Chamber of Commerce, which operates the Fair. Many businesses, civic groups and service organizations have made donations as well.
A new event this year will be a benefit for the Green Beret Casualty Fund, which provides financial assistance to the families of wounded and killed Green Berets and members of the Armed Forces.
The Green Beret “A” Team from the 5th Special Forces Group will be at the Fair all day Friday and Saturday with a special display of weapons, vehicles and equipment. This display will be located on the west side of the Main Stage. A variety of military-related vendors also will be present.
Prior to the Gretchen Wilson concert, the Green Beret Casualty Fund will have a special tribute on the Main Stage at 6:30 p.m. Former Cardinals football player Jerry Holloway will lead the national anthem. Music, dedications, a history of the Green Beret with demonstrations and presentations will follow.
Also new this year will be a People’s Choice Brewfest Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. People can pay $5 to enter the tasting tent and help select the winner. The cost will be $5 for one collector’s glass and one voting sheet.
Participating breweries include Schlafly, Augusta Brewing Co., Tall Grass Brewing Co. and Weston Brewing Co.
“The neat thing about this event is that the winner will get to have a tap of its beer in the Rotary and Lions Club tents next year,” said Westhoff. “We hope to make this an annual event.”
Westhoff said the motor sports lineup is the same as last year with bull riding Wednesday night, a rodeo Thursday evening, the always popular tractor pull Friday beginning at 3 p.m. followed by the truck and mini-rod pull Friday night.
On Saturday, the micro sprint cars will return and there will be stadium motocross racing Sunday beginning at 2 p.m.
“The motor sports always do well for us and people really seem to enjoy them,” Westhoff said.
The livestock judging will take place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with the auction beginning at noon Saturday.
A wide variety of children’s contests will be held all five days of the Fair and several special events are planned in the Family Fun Center, such as appearances by the World Bird Sanctuary, dance demonstrations, martial arts and new this year, a zip line.
Hands-on activities also are planned at Agri-Land and Safety Lands.
Westhoff said some of the contests are being held on different days and times this year so Fairgoers should check the schedule carefully for the activities they want to check out.
“We had some contests that overlapped which prevented kids from participating in both so we changed things around,” he said.
Westhoff encourages people of all ages to attend the Fair and make some new memories.
“I promise you won’t be disappointed,” he said.