A Full-Scale Fair Returns to Blaine County
August 4, 2021
Opening next week on August 10, the Blaine County Fair promises "Fun for Everyone" through its motto. The events begin at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday with the 4-H and FFA Horse Show at the George Ortner Arena on the Blaine County Fairgrounds. That will be followed by a packed slate of other attractions-including a dedication to former Fair Board President, Don Richman.
According to Fair Manager, Debbie Ramberg, fair-goers can expect everything to be back to normal. "That means a full fair compared to last year's single event, which was the rodeo," she said.
Fair events continue on August 11 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. with 4-H Interview Judging in the Commercial Building. FFA Concessions open in the Grandstand at 4:00 p.m. so that spectators can grab some grub before attending the Little Kid's Rodeo at 5:00.
Entries for the Kid's Rodeo were due yesterday, August 3, and event organizer Courtney Bell said she's "looking forward to seeing tons of entries." In her estimation, this rodeo is "going to be a good one!"
With no limits on events, people were encouraged to enter as many contests as they desired in their age groups. Describing the rodeo, Bell stated: "Great people, great horses, great prizes, great sport. We are excited about this year's rodeo and hope the numbers of contestants are high since we didn't get to have a kid's rodeo last year. Many of the prizes have been made by people along the Hi-Line. We would like to thank all of our local sponsors for making the prizes possible, and we invite everyone to come out to the Blaine County Kids' Rodeo!"
Those prizes will include handmade halters, belts and breast corrals, pullover coats, blankets, buckets, hats, and more. According to Bell, the only prizes not purchased from the Hi-Line are the buckles. These will be awarded to the contestants earning first place in all events, although the organizers haven't determined what other places will be.
Bell further reported that Aislinn Handy will be singing the National Anthem at the Blaine County Kids' Rodeo.
On Thursday, August 12, the full fair will open with the 4-H Chuckwagon and other food booths offering their specialties beginning at 10:00 a.m. Kids Fun Zone and Amusement, a party entertainment service based in Great Falls, will provide the midway carnival rides and games. All rides and games will be operational from noon until 10:00 p.m. on Thursday and from noon until 11:00 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. There will be no rides on Sunday.
"Because the fair has never seen enough foot traffic to pay for the carnival, the Fair Board made the decision to offer rides for free this year," Ramberg explained.
"We're hoping that will give people the incentive to come down to support the food booths, see the exhibits, and enjoy this community event."
While carnival rides will be free, people will have to purchase tickets to play any games or to engage with Bungee Trampoline and Battle Balls.
Another scheduled attraction, the Petting Zoo had to cancel due to health issues. However, a returning act that fair-goers will likely recall and re-welcome is a one clown parade with flags, balls, parachutes, feathers, and spinning ribbons. Dressed in her pink hair, big shoes, and petticoats, Jeanne Thomas from Red Lodge, Montana, visits county fairs and other events as Pippi the Clown. With her "Wondrous cart full of magic, balloons, and face painting art," Thomas describes herself as "Chief Clown, Magician, Balloon Artist, and Face Painter, bringing fun to you, your event, and your town."
In fact, former Fair Board President Don Richman has called Pippi one of his favorite acts. According to Richman's daughter Heather Jorgenson, Richman has always considered the fair "a good place for youth in the county to work, play, and showcase their talents." In addition to helping area youth, Richman wanted to bring good family entertainment to the Blaine County Fair. So, he often attended the Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs Convention in Billings each fall to hear all the acts and invite the good ones to Blaine County. That's where he first saw Pippi.
Because of his service to Blaine County and specifically to the fair, the Blaine County Fair Board dedicated this year's Premium Book to Richman as a gesture of gratitude. To receive this honor each year, the Board selects an individual who has contributed extra time, effort, and resources to the Blaine County Fair to ensure that it remains a viable event for local 4-H, FFA, and community members. For eighteen years, Richman dedicated much of his time and energy to making the fair a family-friendly event.
For example, Richman was instrumental in getting the Double D Pig Wrestling providers to travel to Blaine County. Doubters didn't initially believe such an event would "fly" at the local fair, but pig wrestling developed into one of the most popular events. Although only five teams entered when pig wrestling first debuted, by its final year, over 50 teams competed. Overseeing the entire competition, Richman dressed in a pink t-shirt emblazoned with the title "Boss Hog." In 2016, he also wore a tutu!
About his leadership with the Fair Board, Richman shared this sentiment: "It's just unbelievable how much fun it can be when everyone has the same goals. This great bunch has become just like family."
Readers are encouraged to check out other stories in this issue of the Blaine County Journal-News-Opinion for details about the night shows, PRCA Rodeo action, and the Blaine County Showdown Demolition Derby.