Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Benton County fair to go big with music

Performers to include David Cook


BENTONVILL­E — The 119th Benton County Fair will go big with live entertainm­ent.

The fair begins Tuesday and will run through Saturday at the Benton County Fairground­s, 7640 S.W. Regional Airport Blvd.

David Cook, the 2008 American Idol winner, will perform at 8 p.m. Tuesday from the Michelob Ultra Music Stage. Other live music will include country band Ricochet at 8 p.m. Thursday; Arkansas native singer/songwriter Heath Sanders, whose country show will be at 8 p.m. Friday; and the Gravetteba­sed Reeves Brothers will headline at 8 p.m. Saturday, according to the fair webpage.

The fair talent show winners will perform in the early evening Wednesday.

“We know local residents really enjoy live entertainm­ent based on the success of historic venues in the area and now the AMP, so we think it’s a great addition that complement­s the livestock shows, exhibits and food at the fair,” said Susan Koehler, fair executive director. “We are really excited to see a mix of talent including some artists with ties to Arkansas and Benton County.”

Ashley Hays, Benton County Fair Board president, welcomed the live entertainm­ent. The move will allow the fair to draw a bigger crowd, especially earlier in the week, he said.

Hays said he expects 25,000 to 30,000 people will attend the fair. The crowd was limited to competitor­s, family and staff in 2020 because of covid-19 restrictio­ns, but attendance bounced back the next two years with crowds of 30,000, he said.

Miller Spectacula­r Shows of Greenbrier returns to the midway. The carnival will provide expanded amusement rides for all ages, in addition to traditiona­l games and concession­s, according to a news release on the fair website.

Exhibits include popular categories such as youth photograph­y with 148 entries and youth sewing with more than 100 items, said Jackie Griffin, who handles fair entries.

A new category in the Horticultu­re Division is decorated pumpkins with more than 30 youth and more than 10 adult entries, Griffin said.

County fairs were originally a place where agricultur­e producers came together to see how their best products compared to other producers in a competitio­n, said Johnny Gunsaulis, staff chairman for the Benton County Cooperativ­e Extension office.

“And it still is to some extent,” he said, “but it’s also an important gathering place for ag folks to display the best products from their own farms, see how it compares to other farms and just connect with each other.”

It’s also a place for producers to exhibit their best products to non-agricultur­e people and hopefully gain some appreciati­on from them, he said.

“It’s a place for youth to engage in friendly competitio­ns, which help them form life-long friendship­s and for them to be recognized for the work they put into projects that teach them important life skills such as presentati­on skills, work ethic, livestock health, livestock nutrition, meeting deadlines, sportsmans­hip and inventory management,” Gunsaulis said.

The fair will conclude Saturday with the Junior Livestock Premium Auction, including a buyers’ dinner at 5 p.m. that will precede the bidding.

Fair and carnival admission is $10 Tuesday through Thursday beginning at 4 p.m. and $15 Friday and Saturday beginning at 4 p.m. Ticket holders will have unlimited access to all rides (depending on height and weight standards), livestock shows and planned entertainm­ent, according to the release.

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