120th year of Western Idaho Fair a hit

2017 Fair celebrated old traditions, new arrivals, solar eclipse

The biggest event attraction in Idaho celebrated its 120th year from August 18th to 27th. The Western Idaho Fair drew in over 235,000 fairgoers in 2017.

Every year, the Fair is the social event of the summer, bringing together over 3,000 animals, 300 shows, 400 vendors, hundreds of competitive exhibitors, huge crowds, and a carnival over the course of 10 action-packed days and nights.

“I want to say thank you,” says Bob Batista, Fair and Expo Idaho director. “To all the people who came out to enjoy the Fair—and to all the exhibitors, vendors, sponsors, food concessionaires, entertainers, and Butler Carnival—you made this year’s event one for the ages.”

Celebrating Old Traditions

Since its start in 1897 as the Intermountain Fair, agriculture, crafts, and farming practices have been a central focus. This year saw the largest showing of goats in recent history. The price per pound for sheep, swine, and goats was up year-over-year for this year’s Junior Market Livestock Sale.

For the open class general exhibits, overall entries decreased by about 5 percent, but enthusiasm was high. Fairgoers marveled at hobby craft submissions like a giant model airplane hanging from the rafters and a 400-pound dog made of metal.

Welcoming New Arrivals

Meet the Animals introduced a new addition to the Fair when a cow, Pumpkin, had a calf. After the Fair ran an online contest to name him, he was christened Huckleberry or “Huck” for short.

The first annual Fair Food Showdown may have contributed to a 2.5 percent uptick in food and beverage sales this year. On the opening day of the Fair, a panel of taste-making judges awarded the titles of “Best Sugar Rush” to the Idaho Ice Cream Potato, “Best Fair Square Meal Deal” to the BBQ Parfait by Spud’s BBQ, and “Best on a Stick” to the Turkey Leg at Smokehouse Grill. The Idaho Ice Cream Potato was later crowned the “Biggest Crowd Pleaser” after a public vote.

The Fair also observed the 2017 solar eclipse with a once-in-a-lifetime event called the Total Eclipse of the Fair. On August 21, nearly 2,000 people watched this celestial event from the Grandstand and a few lucky raffle winners got the chance to view the eclipse from the top of the Giant Wheel.

Showcasing Free Entertainment

The fun array of free entertainment in 2017 included splashing and sprinting dogs, tarantulas and  toads in the Animals of Wizardry, hilarious hypnotists, and even a robotic roving dinosaur.

Also free with gate admission, this year’s concert line-up on the DISH Grandstand was a total hit, with two of the largest crowds in Fair history. Huey Lewis and the News attracted 12,200 attendees, and Trace Adkins played to a crowd of 12,800 people.

Looking Forward

The 2018 Western Idaho Fair is slated for August 17th to 26th. The Fair is produced by Expo Idaho, a self-funded entity of Ada County.

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