It's a big dual birthday party this week at the Weber County Fairgrounds. The Weber County Fair celebrates its 25th year, and Utah 4-H is hitting 100.
"For some people, the fair turning 25 might not be a big deal," said Jan Wilson, special events manager for the fair. "But for people who remember us when we started out in 1988, it will be fun and a time to reflect on how it's changed and grown. And 4-H will have a big centennial tent, with displays and photos, that will be really nice."
As usual, this year brings changes. Horse pulls are moving to the outside stadium, and the fairgrounds will have a new courtyard for various smaller events. And this year, Wilson said, the fair will also offer interactive duck races.
"People can come hold the duck and put them in the pond and root them on," she said.
Also returning this year by popular demand is the petting zoo. Wilson laughed. "We always have the barns, the pigeons and poultry -- but the people have spoken. They want hands-on."
In the past, the fair would bring at least one big-name music act, such as Willie Nelson, who played it in 2003. This practice was discontinued several years ago, with the musical focus going instead to several local and smaller-named touring acts.
Part of the reason, said Wilson, is that when the fair started, there were not too many concert venues for large crowds in the area, so the fair provided a place for big acts to play. Since then, venues like Kenley Centennial Amphitheater and Ogden Amphitheater, as well as several large venues in Salt Lake City, have been built.
"With so many venues, hosting so many entertainers, it's hard to get a big name routed through here," she said.
Cost was also a factor in eliminating that sort of entertainment.
"It costs a great deal to bring these big-name acts in," she said. "So we changed things a bit and found out that it did not really affect fair attendance to not have an act like that coming through."
This year includes three main-stage music acts, playing at 8 p.m. the first three days of the fair, Aug. 8-10. Lokalgrown, a Davis County-based rock outfit will play Wednesday, Aug. 8. On Thursday, Aug. 9, The Doo-Wah Riders, a country band with Cajun spice from Studio City, Calif., will perform. Ahmir, an up-and-coming R&B band that boasts over 60 million views on YouTube, hits the stage on Friday, Aug. 10.
Other area musicians will also perform throughout the fair's schedule.
Said Wilson: "We like to provide a wide variety of styles, so we get a little different crowd each night."
Organizers do their best to offer deals that make the fair affordable for most, said Wilson. Opening day, those 12 and younger get in free, so large families and/or those on tight budgets can bring the whole gang.
"And on Thursday night, we are helping out the Utah Food Bank," said Wilson. "You can bring a can of nonperishable food to donate and get into the fair for $1."
Last year, the fair was able to donate more than 7,000 pounds of food to the bank, Wilson said.
"The need is even greater this year," Wilson said. "Anything we can do to help we try to do, and this also gives the public a good way to help out and have a good time."
Friday, Aug. 10, is 4-H Day. Anyone 13 and older gets in for $4 before 4 p.m.
No ordinary day
Among the other kinds of entertainment, the fair hosts a rodeo on Wednesday night, a master hypnotist nightly, and the ever-popular demolition derby on the final day, Saturday, Aug. 11, alongside all of the traditional fair goods and services.
"What we really try to do is give people some things to do they would not on any normal day," said Wilson. "Why not bake your beautiful loaf of bread and see if you can win that blue ribbon?"
Wilson admits to getting a little bemused when she sees events during the year that promote themselves as being like a county fair.
"The reason is, there really is nothing quite like a county fair," she said. "I want to ask, 'At your demolition derby, do you also have hogs, and a horse show? And did you actually bake those cupcakes?'
"You talk to people who go to county fairs, who love them, and what they really want is to see that great big steer!" Wilson laughed. "They're thinking, 'I want to pet an animal I normally could not, or race a duck, or watch a man carve a tree into a bear.' What we aim for is all those things -- different things, that you just don't typically do."
WEBER COUNTY FAIR HIGHLIGHTS
Here are a few of the happenings at the 2012 Weber County Fair. For a complete list of events, go to webercountyfair.org. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Aug. 8-11. For more information, call 801-399-8789.
Wednesday, Aug. 8
- 7 p.m. — Rodeo
- 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. daily — Hypnotist.
- Various times daily — Duck races
- 8 p.m. — Music by Lokalgrown
Thursday, Aug. 9
- 5 p.m. — Weber County Trivia
- 7 p.m. — Stallion parade
- 8 p.m. — Music by The Doo-Wah Riders
Friday, Aug. 10
- 5 p.m. — Green Jell-O eating contest
- 7 p.m. — 4-H Centennial birthday party
- 8 p.m. — Music by Ahmir
Saturday, Aug. 11
- 1 p.m. — Pig racing
- 5 p.m. — Pie-eating contest
- 8 p.m. — Demolition derby