Growing up, I remember getting excited to go to the fair every year. There was a buzz in the air and the community rallied around the annual event.
Today, the pattern has changed a bit, but there is hope.
The big differences when I was a kid compared to today were the sheer numbers. There were more people, more vendors, way more rides and just more entertainment. The grandstands were the centerpiece of the fairgrounds. The carnival stretched all the way down the runway to the Bigger, Better Barn. The commercial buildings were always full and active. And the free stage always had some type of entertainment to keep people at the fair. Local clubs had more booths.
For example, Havre youth baseball used to do a dunking booth or a pitching booth where you tried to guess your speed. That stuff is all gone.
Today, the Great Northern Fair is trying, but is far from “great.” It’s a trend not only affecting our fair, but I believe all small fairs. We’re one of the only fairgrounds in the state that doesn’t have a grandstands with a lid. Sorry, but metal bleachers on a hot day do not draw a crowd. Also, the carnival is half the size. I’ve heard that they split it up with other fairs because it’s scheduled the same week. Maybe they need to move our fair back to August like it used to be. Just a thought.
And as for the commercial building, it’s hard to have people pay for booths when they can do it online year-round for free. They need to make it more reasonable. I’m not saying I know the answers to making our fair flourish, but I think these ideas would help.
No. 1, build new grandstands. We need it. Build it and people will come. If we make the fair fun again, people will absolutely show up. Instead, people are saving their money and going to the state fair in Great Falls the following week because there’s more to do. They get more bang for the buck. I would love to see the Great Northern Fair be great again. But it’s gonna take time and effort. As a community, we need to learn to adapt to changes. It’s an investment and it needs support.
And this is coming from a Havreite.