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Safety plans, new events coming to 75th Central States Fair
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Safety plans, new events coming to 75th Central States Fair

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The Central States Fair is celebrating its 75th anniversary with bigger rodeos, new events and COVID-19 changes to help protect fairgoers.

The pleasures of the fair — the carnival, food, shopping, livestock events, rodeos, concerts, a demolition derby, supercross races and entertainment — will be in full swing, with safety protocols in place. The fair will run from Aug. 21-30.

Limiting the risk of COVID-19 exposure was incorporated into planning for the entire fair. Grandstand passes for weeklong admissions will not be sold this year, said Central States Fair general manager Ron Jeffries.

“Because we are limiting the number of people that can attend, we are not selling general admission passes. Each event will be ticketed individually to maintain personal spacing,” he said.

“Our fair is based on personal responsibility. We are expecting people to exercise personal responsibility and decision-making about whether to attend the fair. We encourage people in high-risk categories or who are experiencing symptoms to not attend. We encourage everyone else to take every safety precaution they’re comfortable with and be respectful of others,” Jeffries said. “We are very, very much aware that it’s not going to work for everybody this year.”

There will be hand sanitizing stations throughout the fairgrounds, masks will be available to purchase, and the carnival has an extensive plan for cleaning the rides and attractions, Jeffries said.

“This is the first year we’re going to try a cashless midway. That reduces hand-to-hand transactions,” he said. “We’re excited about the level of precautions the carnival is putting forth to provide a safe environment for families.”

Individual tickets can be purchased at a reduced price for every event at this year’s fair. Ticket sales start online July 15 at Jeffries said discount concert ticket packages will be available at Family Fare outlets.

“We are offering a discount on tickets if people buy them before the start of the fair,” Jeffries said.

The fair opens Aug. 21 with a kickoff for its 75th anniversary. The debut of a wine event will highlight the opening weekend.

While the Rushmore German Club has opted not to run the popular Sommerfest – aka the German Tent – this year, fairgoers can sample South Dakota wines on Aug. 23. Fairgoers can talk to wine enthusiasts and learn “why South Dakota wines are so important and cool and different,” said Rebecca Bader, events coordinator. Meanwhile, novice winemakers can compete in an amateur wine contest.

The first weekend lineup will include an expanded youth livestock show though individual competitive blue ribbon exhibits have been canceled.

“Our youth livestock rally will be big this year. We’re really going to celebrate our freedoms and the agriculture way of life at our fair this year,” Jeffries said.

Also new this year is a Counts Car Show Aug. 25-26, arts and activities in the Fine Arts building, and a contest for food vendors.

“We wanted to highlight the unique products they do. To ramp that up, we’re having a food contest where vendors compete to see who’s got the best and newest fun fair food,” Bader said.

Last year’s biggest rodeo event, the PRCA Xtreme Broncs Finals, returns on Aug. 27. The top 24 saddle bronc riders and bucking horses in the world will vie for the largest one-day payout of $64,000.

“It’s the tour finals for Xtreme Bronc events throughout nation. It’s a huge event,” Jeffries said. “We expect that PRCA entries will be up considerably this year if they follow the trend that’s been happening with South Dakota rodeos currently. Because there’s so few rodeos taking place, all the cowboys are scrambling to get as many in as they can. All of sudden, South Dakota is the hot spot for championship contenders to come rodeo.”

The fair has added an extra day of rodeo slack to accommodate the number of contestants they anticipate, and events like breakaway roping and jackpot team roping are likely to attract a huge crowd, according to marketing livestock director Amanda Kammerer.

Travis Tritt, Kip Moore, Michael Ray, Joe Nichols, High Valley and another performer to be announced later make up this year’s concert lineup. Ticket sales will be limited to accommodate personal spacing as much as possible, Jeffries said.

For shoppers, “there’s an interesting mix of vendors, a ton of new vendors and a lot of interesting new boutiques from Wyoming and Colorado,” Bader said. “They’re going to have a totally different look and products this year. It’s more of shopping experience similar to what we see at the Black Hills Stock Show in terms of the variety of goods. It’s just in time for back-to-school shopping.”

Throughout the run of the fair, live entertainment is scheduled on the Soule Stage and Midco Stage. The fair has added permanent, shaded seating at a grain bin bar near the Midco Stage.

“We’ve got a whole lot of fair to put on,” Jeffries said. “We’re excited to help jumpstart our economy. … We expect to have a good turnout for events. I think people are anxious for activities and opportunities to get out.” 

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