Free ad­mis­sion to county fair

An­nual at­trac­tion opens Tuesday

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - TOM SISSOM

BEN­TONVILLE — Ben­ton County Fair or­ga­niz­ers hope a new fea­ture — free ad­mis­sion — will boost at­ten­dance this year.

The fair opens Tuesday and runs through Satur­day at the fair­grounds, 7640 S.W. Re­gional Air­port Road.

Ash­ley Hays, pres­i­dent of the Ben­ton County Fair As­so­ci­a­tion board, said the board con­sid­ered try­ing to pro­vide free ad­mis­sion for kids for some time but then de­cided to go all out and seek spon­sor­ships to pro­vide free ad­mis­sion to all.

“The kids and the fam­i­lies of the kids who ex­hibit are al­ways go­ing to at­tend. We need to draw the peo­ple from the towns. To get them to come see the ex­hibits, par­tic­i­pate in the car­ni­val and other at­trac­tions. Hope­fully the free ad­mis­sion will help,” Hays said.

Hays and fair man­ager Su­san Kohler said the board per­suaded about 17 spon­sors to pro­vide the money for free ad­mis­sion. Kohler pointed to

Wal-Mart, McKee Foods and Ar­vest Bank as the three largest spon­sors.

Kohler said one new at­trac­tion — goat yoga — al­ready has gen­er­ated in­ter­est.

“It’s yoga, with goats,” Kohler said. “We’ve got two ses­sions sched­uled, and they’re al­ready sold out. We may have to add a third.”

The fair also will have many other pop­u­lar at­trac­tions, in­clud­ing a trac­tor pull and a lawn­mower pull, Hays said. Also, a num­ber of horse show events have been added this year.

The mis­sion of the fair is to pro­vide a gath­er­ing place for com­mu­ni­ties to show­case their prod­ucts and pro­mote agri­cul­ture and tra­di­tions across the county, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion in a hand­out. The fair sup­ports 4H, Fu­ture Farm­ers of Amer­ica, Fam­ily, Ca­reer and Com­mu­nity Lead­ers of Amer­ica and the youth of Ben­ton County. Hays and Kohler pointed to the suc­cess of the Ju­nior Live­stock Auc­tion as an ex­am­ple of how the fair sup­ports young peo­ple.

“The Ju­nior Live­stock Auc­tion last year raised $130,000 for 250 kids,” Hays said. “All of the money goes to the kids. Typ­i­cally they use it for their live­stock projects or for their col­lege fund, what­ever they need.”

El­don Cripps, who is on the fair board, said he’s op­ti­mistic the fair will see a good turnout this year.

“Our fa­cil­i­ties are top­notch,” he said.

Hays agreed and said he thinks turnout this year could sur­pass re­cent years when the at­ten­dance num­bers ranged from 10,000 to 17,000 peo­ple.

“I think we can reach the top end of that range,” Hays said.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE

Vol­un­teer Robin Ear­les, 12, of Fayet­teville, a sev­enth-grader at Wood­land Ju­nior High School, sorts do­nated school sup­plies Fri­day aboard a Fayet­teville School District bus at the Wal-Mart Su­per­center on Mall Av­enue in Fayet­teville. The United Way of North­west Arkansas is col­lect­ing school sup­plies at area Wal­Mart lo­ca­tions from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in its an­nual Fill the Bus ef­fort to ben­e­fit lo­cal school dis­tricts.

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