The Kenai Peninsula Fair has made some changes that will delight music and carnival enthusiasts.
Brian White, an award winning country music artist from Oklahoma and the band Home Free, a country vocal group that won this season’s “Sing Off” on NBC, will perform at the Ninilchick Fairgrounds Aug. 15-17.
Lara McGinnis, the Executive Director of the Kenai Peninsula Fair, said this is the first year she attempted to bring in “big name music.” McGinnis, who has managed the fair for 10 years, said because their venue isn’t set up to charge for the show, they are an added value to the fairgoer.
“We are thrilled to have both of these acts grace our main stage and perform for the entire Kenai Peninsula,” McGinnis said. “The (fair board) and I are passionate about making sure our youth are exposed to every possible form of entertainment out there.”
Another new attraction she said is the return of the carnival, something the Kenai Peninsula Fair has not had in more than 20 years. McGinnis said when she first approached the instate carnival Golden Wheel, they required a $50,000 guarantee to come to the fair. She said she has never seen gate sales bring in more than $45,000.
With the help of the Delta Junction Fair, McGinnis found A-1 Midway, a Carnival company out Winnipeg, Manitoba, Can. that doesn’t require money from the venue and actually pays the fairgrounds for their services.
Mike Mills, A-1 Midway owner, said they would bring 10 rides to the Kenai Peninsula Fair and pay back 15 percent of all net ride receipts.
“We always pay back where we go because without the fair we would not exist,” he said. “We like to pay back the community.”
McGinnis said she is excited to work with A-1 Midway, who will make their first trip to Alaska this summer. The carnival will also set up at the Tanana Valley State Fair, and the Delta Junction Fair.
“It’s amazing this company has a heart for little fairs,” she said. “Even though we offered them free space, they insisted on giving back because they realize they wouldn’t be where they are today without fairs.”
McGinnis said this year’s fair theme is, “Sow it, Grow it, Show it.” Some of the regular events people can expect is the return of “Alaska’s Got Talent,” Aug. 15. The winner will receive $500 and a chance to compete at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer for $5,000.
On Aug. 16 events include: Pig Racing, Backwoods Girl competition, the rodeo, egg toss and bull riding. Home Free will perform on the Main Stage Saturday. White, who has won a Grammy, a Country Music Award and two platinum and two gold records, will close out the fair Sunday night. Admission to the shows is free with gate admission.
Last year attendance to the fair totaled 7,300 people. Ticket prices for each day or the whole fair are $6 for youth, $12 for adults. Aug. 15 will be kid’s day with free admission for kids who bring a food donation for the food bank. Aug. 17, seniors pay half price admission.
McGinnis said she watched Home Free perform on the “Sing Off,” an NBC reality show and dreamed of the possibility of having them perform at the fair, but thought financially they would be beyond the fair board’s means.
“Home Free is an amazing a cappella group,” McGinnis said. “Several of my board members and I watched the show faithfully and were franticly texting back and forth.”
McGinnis said the board is trying to build up a music fund of $50,000 for holding interim music events at the fairgrounds. She said the first 100 people to donate $100 will be entered in a drawing to meet one of the two headliners. Twenty-five people will be chosen to bring a guest to meet and great the performers.
The fairgrounds will rearrange vendors to accommodate space for the carnival, she said. The 4-H and open class exhibits have been combined into the main exhibit hall and one of the horticulture exhibits will be moved to an outbuilding. Rodeo contestants will be relocated to a camping area adjacent to the fairgrounds. McGinnis said the moves should help with the flow of the fair and make sure everyone has a positive experience.
“Our fair is designed to stretch the imaginations of our youth and help them dream,” she said. “We know we’ve done our job if just one child comes away with a dream. For many this is the closest they will ever come to Disneyland and we want to ensure they have a memorable experience.”
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org