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Niverville Fair Attendance “Nothing Short of Amazing”

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Fair22 Web
The Reklaws performing at the Olde Tyme Country Fair to a huge crowd. Dustin Krahn

This year’s edition of the Niverville Olde Tyme Country Fair was, by all accounts, a booming success. Dustin Krahn, general manager of the fair committee, says that the 2022 attendance numbers were nothing short of amazing.

“Actual attendance numbers are pretty tough to nail down accurately,” says Krahn. “We do know, however, that this was easily the biggest fair we have had, attendance wise. Prior to this would have been in 2012 when we had Dean Brody. Including the midway and show-and-shine areas, our best estimate is around 15,000 to 20,000 people, but that isn’t exclusive to the fairgrounds.”

Krahn and his team were thrilled to see so many people in attendance and having good, safe fun.

“With such big crowds, I was a bit nervous there could be some incidents,” he says. “But we had a really good crowd that was well behaved.”

Attendance on Friday was so busy that the organizers decided to call in some extra security. This turned out to be wise, because Saturday turned out to be even busier.

“We watched attendance closely all day, and ultimately made the decision to leave the gates open until the concert started at 9:30, assuming most people who really wanted to be there would have arrived by the start time,” Krahn explains. “In any event, when the concert started we closed the gate to new sales and only permitted entry to those who already had wristbands, or those who had pre-purchased tickets.”

The fair had excellent weather throughout, which also helped attendance. Krahn points out that not only was the temperature good, but the wind was mild. High winds can create significant challenges for certain acts, particularly for the motocross event, so this was a boon.

Only on Sunday, which is a designated clean-up day for the fair crew, did a huge storm finally arrive. Afterward, the weather calmed down enough for a successful clean-up.

“Cleaning up the fair on Sunday in the rain is never fun,” Krahn says. “But we would rather have rain while cleaning up as opposed to having rain during the fair.”

Sponsorship and Support

Krahn adds that when the committee began planning for the 2022 year’s fair, they were a little nervous about sponsorships and community support, as some businesses and residents have really struggled through the pandemic. They were also concerned that people might prioritize giving their time and money to other worthwhile activities in Niverville, such as the new MJHL team, the Nighthawks.

He need not have worried.

“Sponsors and community support was remarkable,” says Krahn. “It always is, but this year was amazing and very humbling for us.”

He hopes that fairgoers take a moment to realize just how important sponsorships and volunteers are to the fair.

“From a personal standpoint, I just have to say it amazes me seeing the community and businesses rally behind these things the way they do here in Niverville. I really hope people take the time to appreciate how important that is, and why it is important to also support these businesses and community supporters. Groups like the fair committee do everything we can to thank them, but we can never thank them enough. They are very often the backbone of many community initiatives, but often go unnoticed.”

The Entertainment

Krahn also feels that this year’s entertainment lineup was one of the best that the Olde Tyme Country Fair has ever assembled—and the sheer volume of attendees seems to indicate that the fairgoers agreed.

“The crowds were unlike anything we’ve seen before, which seems to be a common trend with the few festivals that have happened so far this year,” he says. “The Reklaws put on a really good show and were an absolute pleasure to work with! In fact, all the entertainers were fabulous this year, both in terms of their talent, but also just being really easygoing and great to work with behind the scenes.”

Minor Hiccups

That being the case, there were a few challenges—many of them due to the sheer number of people who showed up, even though the large attendance is also considered a boon.

For example, along with high turnout comes long lines. In order to hopefully shorten wait times next year, Krahn hopes to be able to provide more food vendors, washrooms, bar staff, face-painters, etc.

Another perennial challenge relates to a shortage of volunteers. A lot of people power is needed in order for the fair to run smoothly, and ultimately the fair could have used some more bodies.

In the end, though, Krahn is grateful for those who showed up and made things work.

“We really need to say a big thank you to some of those people who did two, three, four extra shifts,” he says. “We even had a few committee members pulling shifts when they had time. It always amazes me seeing people step up when needed like that.”

The committee is coming out of this year’s event with fresh determination to smooth out these roughs spots in 2023.

“From a committee or planning perspective, we want to make a big effort to spread out and get more people involved this [next] year,” Krahn adds. “Not to the point of having crazy time commitments, but the opposite. Essentially spreading out the roles a bit wider and having smaller, more specific tasks and roles that are easier for people to take on and commit to. We want to make it easy and fun for people to help.”

Currently the committee is comprised of just 12 people. Krahn believes they can do better if they get a few more people on board.

Another change on Krahn’s mind is rethinking the parade route, so that next year’s parade and the detours won’t overlap—or at least only overlap in a minimal way.

“There were also some sound check scheduling/timing issues that unfortunately threw a few kinks into our plans,” Krahn says, “such as the choir group on Friday evening not being able to use the stage, which we felt terrible about. Saturday also saw a few stage acts overlapping for the same reason, which was a bit awkward unfortunately. But, as usual, people understand the challenges and most just keep smiling and keep enjoying their time at the fair. Considering we haven’t done this since 2019, I was pleasantly surprised how smooth things went overall.”

The organizers had hoped to sell most tickets through non-cash options this year, but ultimately just under 50 percent of the ticket sales were processed via debit card. Lines were longer at the cash gates, and Krahn speculates that this may be because people weren’t aware of the debit option.

“The system we had unfortunately didn’t have tap and didn’t take credit cards, so that is something that we will certainly address next year,” he says. “Without a tap option, cash is still quicker, and if you’re like me you will almost always opt for the quicker method. So I think we just have to make it quicker and easier regardless of which method you use.”

Also, the debit machines worked via cellular network, and Krahn acknowledges that the network wasn’t working well over the fair weekend.

“Even on my cell phone, I would drop almost every call throughout the weekend, so having some contingency there would be helpful. A system like this is completely useless if it cannot connect to a network reliably.”

A Word on Pricing

Before, during, and after each fair weekend, there is always chatter online about the price of admission. Krahn is more than happy to explain how the fair committee arrives at these price points. In essence, he makes four distinct points.

First, he certainly understands that the cost of the fair is prohibitive for some families. Unfortunately, this is simply a fact of life. Prices cannot be lowered into the basement if the fair is to maintain the high standards it has developed for itself.

“Looking at age 12+ pricing, does $15 add up quickly for a larger family?” Krahn says. “Absolutely it does, and we completely understand that! However, it also has to be understood that costs adding up is not a unique occurrence that only takes place at our fair. Doing anything with a large family gets expensive quickly, whether it’s the movies, Fun Mountain, go-carting, or simply ordering takeout. $15 really doesn’t get you very far doing anything these days. And from that perspective, we are actually very proud of what we are able to offer for that cost.”

The second point Krahn makes is that they do offer free admission for volunteers. Since volunteerism is integral to the event’s success, stepping up to lend a hand will get you in the door for free.

Krahn’s third point is that fairgoers can save money on tickets via family pack deals and early-bird pricing.

“People may not realize those pre-sales are the best way to get prices lower,” he says. “By purchasing admission ahead of time, you are essentially sharing a small piece of the risk, and relieving some of the financial burden and risk that the committee and sponsors are taking on. When you do that, we don’t have to watch our back end so much, and can respond with better deals.”

There is a clear bottom line: the more people who participate in pre-sales, the better the prices will be.

“Alternatively, if people prefer to wait to see how the weather is before they decide to support us, then we really aren’t able to offer anything better, since all the risk remains on the committee and our sponsors.”

As a final point, Krahn wants to remind the community that the organizers have already lowered the event’s prices. The fair has been running on a leaner financial model since 2018, which is starting to put them in a sustainable place.

Since 2018, the fair committee has been able to reduce the price from $15 to $5 for those under 12 years of age. They also made admission free for those under five, whereas it used to only be free for those under three.

“As we continue to move forward,” Krahn says, “we can hopefully continue that trend and keep passing benefits along to the community. But it is a longer-term strategy, and it takes time and patience. You can take note, though: the first place those benefits will appear would be the previously mentioned pre-sale tickets like the family pack and the early-bird. So we encourage people to take part in those sales. The more they do, the easier it becomes for us to pass along savings.”

Rewarding Experience

“Overall, [the fair] was amazing, and [it was] really great to get back at it,” Krahn concludes. “We all missed it and had a lot of fun putting it together again. There is something really rewarding about it that is hard to explain. No doubt, it can be stressful and chaotic at times, but we all seem to get a kick out of the fast-paced nature of it. It is a really fun group that works well together! We were definitely a bit rusty and forgot some things, but that is just how it goes sometimes. We will learn and always try to improve and be better at the next one!”

By the end of June, the committee had already held their wrap-up meeting for the year. The committee will now take the summer off. But by early fall, they’ll already be back to the drawing board, planning busily for 2023.

Krahn welcomes any and all to join the committee. “We promise it is a lot of fun!”

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