Welcome to a major happening. The Kootenai County fair is one of the fastest-growing, most popular county fairs in the Northwest, its organizers say.
“Coeur d’Alene is fantastic. It’s what a fair ought to be,” declared Pat Beard of Beard Rodeos, who provides rodeo personnel and stock to fairs throughout the region.
Barbara Renner, manager of the Kootenai County Fair, spends the whole year arranging for commercial exhibits to fill the fair’s 200 slots, lining up the carnival, and making sure the 10,000 or so exhibits will be entered, displayed and judged. You’d think the demands of such a job might drive her up the wall.
“I love it,” she said. “There’s not a day that’s repetitive, never a time there’s not a challenge. It’s not a job to me.”
Renner is also in charge of stalking the entertainment - $80,000 worth of entertainment, in fact.
More than 100 acts will perform, some paid and some donated.
About 75,000 people will attend the five-day fair. And there’s a deal for everyone.
Carnival-ride fanatics can start the fair early with “Sneek-a-Peek” night on Tuesday, from 5 p.m. to closing. Ride all you want for just $8.
Wednesday, the opening day of the fair, is The Spokesman-Review’s Reader Appreciation Day and Silver Foxes Day. Those 60 and over will be admitted for just $3.50. (Regular adult admission is $5.50.)
Thursday brings Tidyman’s Kids’ Day, when kids 12 and under will be admitted free from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an admission coupon from Tidyman’s. That evening, Ladies’ Night, a cash register receipt from Tidyman’s will admit the (female) bearer for just $3 between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
On Friday, Century Communications Cablevision Day, anyone can enjoy 50 cents off adult admission with a coupon from the Cablevision office, 108 E. Indiana, Coeur d’Alene.
Saturday is Tidyman’s Fun Day, when a Tidyman’s store coupon will knock $1 off the adult admission price between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. It’s also Senior Citizen’s Day, when those 60 and over can again receive a $2 discount at the gate.
Sunday, the fair’s final day, is Pepsi Family Day. A Pepsi coupon admits mom, dad and all the kids for just $12.50. Another Pepsi coupon is all you need to buy a $9 ticket for unlimited rides. Call 765-4969 for more information.
This year some $60,000 in community sponsorships undergird the fair. “There are probably more out there - I just don’t have the time to go get them,” Renner said.
The Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce Commodores recently made a $50,000 donation for the construction of a new food court building, with indoor seating for 200.
About 180 volunteers pitch in at fair time to take care of various essential tasks. The Kiwanis Club handles parking. Sweet Adelines do litter pick-up, while Lake City Harmonizers man the information booth. The list goes on.
And exhibitors flock to participate. Renner stresses the importance of these people, whom she calls the “stockholders” of the fair.
The fair wasn’t always like this.
When Renner took over as fair manager in 1985, none of the buildings had insulation or heating. Most lacked floors. The fairgrounds were mostly dirt. There were no tractors or equipment, not even a lawnmower.
When Renner took over 10 years ago, the fairground’s annual budget was $80,000. Now it’s $525,000. Seventy-three percent of that is generated at fair time.
Renner attributes the transformation to one thing.
“Community support is the only reason we’re where we are today. No magic - just community support,” she said.