- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Small county fairs held during summer months often struggle to find affordable entertainment options that will still attract crowds.

The Dubuque Telegraph Herald reports (https://bit.ly/1MehqSb ) that fair organizers know the main reasons people come back to the events are to spend time with family, see the animals and enjoy the food.

Specialties like deep-fried cream puffs, fried candy bars or ice cream and bacon sandwiches can be found at fairs across the region along with classics like funnel cakes and cotton candy.

Duane Hansen, a longtime board member for the fair in Jackson County, Iowa, said organizers try to maintain traditions while adding new ways to have fun. And the event relies heavily on volunteer labor to keep costs down.

“If we didn’t have all of our volunteers, we’d probably go under,” said Hansen, 79. “We try to make the fair pay for itself.”

One of the biggest hits at Jackson County’s fair last year was the Night of Destruction races that featured racing buses and vehicles with appliances attached to their roofs. This year a performance by country music group Montgomery Gentry will be a highlight.

“Trying to find entertainment and keeping labor costs down” are the biggest challenges the 161-year-old fair faces, Hansen said.

At the Jo Daviess County Fair in Illinois, organizers work to limit expenses to make sure the event doesn’t lose money like it often did before 2011.

“We’re heavily dependent on financial help from corporations and businesses,” board member Kate Green said.

Dave and Kim Fosler, who both serve on the Jo Daviess fair board, set up their camper outside the gates during the week of the event so they can be ready to help as volunteers.

“It’s a lot of work, and it takes a lot of people to get it ready and to get through it,” Kim Fosler said. “It’s been a long, ongoing process of improving things.”

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com

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