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Fair vendors say pandemic has limited their opportunities
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Fair vendors say pandemic has limited their opportunities

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Vendors at the 75th edition of the Central States Fair in Rapid City say they are grateful to be at the event, even with the lower than expected turnout in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karen Cobb owns KC's Western Decor and Gifts from Three Forks, Montana. Her booth is set up in the commercial vendors building at the fairgrounds.

Cobb said like most others, she was glad to come to the Central States Fair because most of the exhibitions this year have been canceled because of the pandemic.

"I was at the Billings (Mont.) Fair, so I headed this way to this fair," Cobb said. "I've always wanted to come back to the Central States Fair because I competed in barrel racing back in 2003. I like to travel, but I just wish everything was better."

Cobb said she normally travels to fairs and rodeos all across the country, but most of that has been put to a stop because of the pandemic. She said it has really been a struggle for her business.

"We are really getting hit hard, not just from the virus, but the heat, the smoke, everything. It is just scaring everyone away," Cobb said. "Business has been very slow. Here (at the Central States Fair), I'm afraid I'm not even going to make my fees."

Cobb said she is looking forward to the rodeo contests throughout the rest of the fair and hopes that causes more people to come out to the fair.

"Hopefully, it will be a good weekend. I started this business five years ago as a small part-time venture to keep me busy. I love doing rodeos and fairs," Cobb said.

Another vendor, Debbie Stamm, owns Sweet Wrap Western Gifts based in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She has brought her ladies western-wear clothing to the Central States Fair after setting up shop at the Wyoming State Fair earlier in the season.

Stamm said she's only going to be able to attend the two fairs because the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered most venues and events that she sells at.

"Turnout has been a little slow, and that's expected this year," Stamm said. "This fair has been nice and personable because it is a smaller fair. This time of year, I'm normally at the Nebraska State Fair. This will be my last show of the year. Everything else has been canceled."

Stamm said her next show would have been the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, but that was canceled, too.

"This is my main livelihood. I do this full time. I'm on the road from June through February," she said. "It is really tough this year, but my husband works, and of course I'm using my savings, too, to try and make up the difference. I hope to rebuild my savings down the road after things get back to normal again."

Contact Assistant Managing Editor Nathan Thompson at nathan.thompson@rapidcityjournal.com.

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