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Fair goes on in a different way

By Staff | Jul 2, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Rugby High student Tesha Sobolik (left) and Ethan Kuhnhenn, of Granville, pose for photos at the grand march at a modified high school prom. The prom was part of this year's Pierce County Fair.

The Pierce County Fairgrounds stayed empty last weekend with no chatter from crowds, whirring sounds from ride motors, or smells from deep-fried treats and barbecued meat to fill the air.

The area where fairgoers normally enjoyed evening concerts stayed quiet. The doors on the livestock barns were locked with no animals inside.

However, the Pierce County Fair went on.

Fair Board Secretary Khloe Sobolik said the fair’s cancellation in response to a global pandemic left people who would normally visit feeling disappointed.

“When the decision was made not to have a fair for 2020, the board knew that we wanted to keep the event out there,” Sobolik said.

Sobolik and others pooled together a series of fair and community-related events and hosted them on social media. The 2020 Pierce County Fair took place, different from any other fair in Pierce County history.

“While the fair is going on, we try to keep fairgoers updated on Facebook,” Sobolik said, “so putting little things out on Facebook seemed fitting. We just took some key events to see what people would discuss.”

Each day of the virtual fair was chronicled on social media, beginning with a tribute to favorite carnival rides. “Share your favorite carnival ride or share a memory you have about a carnival ride, good or bad,” the fair’s Facebook page said.

One poster contributed a photo of riders with terrified grins on the Pharaoh’s Fury attraction, taken by former Tribune Editor Tim Chapman.

The second day of the fair featured an opportunity to participate in real life-from a safe distance, of course.

Rugby High School student Tyra Lysne, who with fellow juniors had been making preparations for the prom before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, found an opportunity to give her classmates a chance for prom activities outside of school.

“We were really upset about not getting our prom and felt bad for the seniors who did not get their last prom,” Lysne wrote via social media messages to the Tribune.

“This was the prom that we as juniors were supposed to plan so we were determined to get our prom.”

The modified prom began with a grand march, open to the public. City officials and law enforcement closed the intersection of Main Avenue and Second Street Southeast for the event, held last Friday evening.

Lysne said the committee made decorations for the street. “We got together as a prom committee and made the pallet walls and archway. We spent money from our own pockets to make this possible,” Lysne said.

“Most of the girls already had their dresses but the boys had to go buy dress shirts or rent tuxes last minute,” Lysne added.

Lysne said local businesses and community members played key roles in the evening’s success. “Rockin’ Relics was open for treats,” Lysne noted.

Local auctioneer Mike Ostrem provided a sound system for the event, and Rugby High School teacher Kasey Okke announced the grand march.

“The Rugby Greenhouse donated a bouquet of flowers,” Lysne said. ” I Design donated balloons. Bailey Nelson took pictures. The Pierce County Fair board provided us with free advertising on their Facebook page. The (Rugby) Eagles allowed us to rent their facility for the dance. The upcoming senior parents were also a huge help in set up and tear down. I’m very happy with how it turned out and am so glad we got to do it.,” Lysne said.

“Our prom committee included some of the 2019-2020 juniors,” Lysne added, listing the committee members: “Myself, Brooke Volk, Blake Haakenson, Sarah Blessum, Bella McCabe, Callie Oppen, Lauren Casavant, Lauren Voeller, Brooke Blessum, Meagan Harmel, Tesha Sobolik, Elli Kuntz, Beth Boucher, Zarah-Mae Keenan and Carson Mattern.”

Day three of the fair featured Cow Pie and Chicken Bingo, a much-anticipated event hosted by the Pierce County 4-H.

Participants on a video starring Daphne the Cow and a bird referred to only as “The Chicken” led their animals to separate grids and waited until they made their marks on a square.

The Chicken wasted little time, marking square 35 and making Mandy Peterson a $250 winner.

Daphne the Cow took a bit longer to choose her squares, but she ultimately marked squares to make DeAnne Fedje a $300 first-place winner and give a $150 second prize to Brenda Koehmstedt.

The virtual fair wrapped up with a final day devoted to conversations about favorite fair treats. Participants wrote about the funnel cakes, doughnuts and Philly cheesesteaks they missed. Some included photos of their favorite deep fried treats covered in powdered sugar and chocolate syrup.

“We didn’t want people to think that we’ve forgotten the fair and we don’t want them to lose that enthusiasm they have for the fair,” Sobolik said. “It was fun to see people’s reactions. It’s the people that make the fair a success.”

“It’s their Pierce County Fair!” Sobolik added.

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