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John Lamb, Published July 04 2010

New features, familiar offerings greet visitors to Red River fair

When the Red River Valley Fair opens at 11 a.m. Friday, fairgoers will find familiar festival fare along with some new models of extinct attractions.

“I think the dinosaurs are going to be a huge hit for us this year,” says Bryan Schulz, general manager of the fair.

And this year the dinosaurs aren’t aging rockers playing on the grandstand. Rather, Schulz is referring to the touring exhibit “Days of the Dinosaurs,” what he describes as a “museum quality,” animatronic models of the ancient reptiles.

Not to be mistaken for the touring “Walking with Dinosaurs” show that recently played the Fargodome, “Days of the Dinosaurs” features 17 mostly stationary, yet moving, beasts including a 20-foot high Tyrannosaurus rex. Schulz hopes “Days” catches the wave of dino interest that the Fargodome show brought, but he adds that the fair’s exhibit will be a little more interactive. The fair’s dinosaur exhibit allows people to touch and even ride certain creatures, which was not allowed at the Fargodome shows.

“Being able to get up on them and sit on them is huge,” Schulz says, adding that the dinosaur show is free with gate admission.

This will be the first stateside show for the Belize-based exhibit.

Jodi Buresh, assistant general manager of the fair, said while she’s happy with the few hundred fair Fun Pack tickets ($40 for nine passes) that have sold, she expects heavy walk-up business for the gate admission – $7 for ages 12 and older, $3 for ages 6-11 and free for 5 and younger.

And though it’s going to be a busy week around Fargo-Moorhead, Schulz isn’t worried about the Red River Valley Fair overlapping with the Fargo Street Fair, which runs July 15 through 17 in downtown Fargo, and says he worked with the city’s Downtown Community Partnership.

“I think we complement each other well enough that it’s not going to draw one away from the other,” Schulz says, adding that the Street Fair is more focused on arts and the RRVF has more entertainment options.

So what else is being served up on and off the midway?

Rides

The Murphy Brothers Exposition returns this year, bringing back some of its most popular amusement park rides, says Schulz. Set up on the midway will be the Spin Out (a rotating, radial arm that turns seated riders), Drop Tower (which slowly lifts a circle of seated patrons high around a column before letting them plummet toward a cushioned landing) and the Wave Swinger (where riders twirl around an elevated post).

If you’re more in the mood to watch others’ bravery, the Garcia Family Circus will be doing three shows daily that include a human cannonball and a sphere of death, in which motorcyclists speed around the inside of a spherical cage.

Music

The fair struck gold last year as the Zac Brown Band absolutely blew up after the country act was signed to play the opening night. Schulz says more than 16,500 people caught the show.

Tapping up-and-coming country acts makes good sense for the fair, he says.

“That’s almost where we have to go right now,” Schulz says. “We can’t afford to do the $7 gate admission with acts that are $50,000” or more he says about paying guaranteed fees to book musical acts. Instead, he said the fair looks for acts in the $30,000-$40,000 range.

Schulz recalls his first year at the fair in 2008 when Travis Tritt’s concert was canceled because of high winds and rain.

“We gave Travis Tritt $75,000 to jump back in his bus and go away,” Schulz says. “We can’t afford to do that.”

This doesn’t mean there aren’t any recognizable acts on the fair’s bill. Fan favorite country band Sawyer Brown returns to the fair for the first time since 2006, and Rodney Atkins, who will likely perform his hit song “15 Minutes” Friday night, was a hit at last year’s RibFest.

And Shawn Reed, afternoon DJ at Froggy 99.9, is excited about the July 12 bill that features Jake Owen and LoCash Cowboys and the latter’s feel-good country single, “Here Comes Summer.”

“I’d imagine there will be a lot of people staying out late that night and calling into work sick Monday morning,” Reed says.

Country may be king, but there’s still some rocking to be done. Tesla returns Saturday, just over a year after playing the Venue. Another Venue regular, Hairball, returns to the fair for the second straight year with its July 15 date. Schulz says last year the tribute group to ’80s hair bands drew about 8,000 people.

While there may be no dinosaurs of rock, the Little River Band should offer a memento of ’70s and early ’80s soft rock, like the band’s hit “Reminiscing,” when it plays July 16.

Food

While fair standards like hot dogs, cotton candy, and nachos will be served on the midway, some new vendors will add different twists.

Maui Inc. will serve sweet potato fries and 10 flavors of chicken wings, and Prairie Sky Concessions offers elk burgers.

In addition to standards on a stick (corn dog, pork chop, cheesecake), cookie dough on a stick could stand out.

Food contests will also have their place, with a salsa challenge and a celebrity pie-eating contest tentatively scheduled for the 14th.

Fair admission is free from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. weekdays for folks who want a fair lunch.

Motors

“This year we saw the need for more dirt events,” Schulz says. “Racing is still a pretty big thing.”

Last year’s fair featured one race, so Schulz added a monster truck show for the fair’s closing night in addition to races on the 14th. Featured rigs are Ghost Ryder, Mongoose, Xtreme Eagle, Viper and Shell Camino.

Schulz says the five behemoth vehicles will provide a “huge family draw.”

Seats for the monster truck show and race are limited to grandstand space only and first-come, first-serve for the first 8,400.

Agriculture

Like most other fairs, the Red River Valley Fair’s roots are in agriculture, something Schulz is well aware of.

“We want to draw people back into what the fair used to be and what it needs to be. That was agriculture and where your food comes from,” he says. “The vast majority of kids in town think that you go to Hornbacher’s and you get your food.”

As a result, the fair features a number of ag and livestock-based activities and exhibits.

In addition to the sheep, swine, goats and cattle being shown, there will also be a sow and her piglets.

A new petting zoo with a pony ring will also be open.

A different display of animals will be up as well, with live taxidermy demonstrations and over 30 African mounts shown.

Farm-related fun can be found in the hay-bale maze, which has quadrupled to 150 bales. A large collection of John Deere toys and items will also be for sale.

“We want to make sure the whole agricultural thing is not lost,” Schulz says.

If you go

Daily grandstand highlights

Grandstand concerts start at 8 p.m., dirt events at 7 p.m. All shows are free with gate admission.

Beer Garden sets


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533