BENTONVILLE -- The Benton County Fair will move to the fall, a fair official said.
Susan Koehler, fair and events manager, said the 117th annual fair will be Sept. 28 through Oct. 2. Last year's fair was Aug. 4-8 and was held under a host of covid-19 restrictions.
"We had an opportunity to move the fair to September with a new carnival provider -- Miller Spectacular Shows -- and expect the date of the fair to be held in late September going forward," Koehler said.
Miller Spectacular Shows is based in Greenbrier, Koehler said. The Miller midway has operated in more than 18 states and the Bahamas, according to its website.
"We are excited for the new carnival and the new dates," Fair Board President Ashley Hays said. "We look forward to the change and hope the community responds to it."
The fair drew about 27,000 visitors in 2019, the last year the fair was fully open.
The area fair season will kick off with the Washington County Fair in Fayetteville and the Sebastian County Fair in Greenwood, with both running Aug. 24-28. The Arkansas Oklahoma State Fair in Fort Smith is Sept. 24 through Oct. 2 and the Crawford County Fair in Mulberry is Sept. 11-18.
Fair officials will implement a plan regarding any possible covid-19 precautions and share those details as the fair gets closer, said Koehler, who noted many of the activities will be held outdoors or in large buildings.
A fair open house was held Saturday at the Benton County Fairgrounds Auditorium to help first-time exhibitors.
So far, 170 4-H and Future Farmers of America participants have registered livestock for the fair, which is already more than last year, said Janice Shofner, Benton County Extension agent for 4-H youth development.
Some new events include a homesteading expo in the auditorium, a mountain bike stunt performer, an archery contest and increased cash prizes for horticulture entries, including largest pumpkin, Koehler said.
"We've gotten positive feedback and hope to see some new exhibitors who have perfected hobbies at home in 2020 due to social distancing such as gardening and crafts," she said.
Officials hope for more participation in the Exhibit Hall, where last year numbers fell below half of the previous year's youth exhibitors, Shofner said.
"Our 4-H'ers are looking forward to having a normal county fair and to be able to show all the work they have been doing, whether that is with their livestock or items they have made,' she said.
Koehler said the Fair Board is confidant competitors will have time to get their exhibits to the Arkansas State Fair in Little Rock on time. That event starts Oct. 15.
Covid-19 forced several changes to last year's fair.
Attendance was limited to exhibitors and immediate family and face coverings were required.
There was no food, music or carnival. Livestock were checked in and released daily. The Junior Livestock Premium Auction was streamed online.
"Last year was tough, but Benton County adult leaders that volunteer for the fair did a phenomenal job in making it possible for the kids to show livestock and compete in all the other categories even though it was totally different," said Benton County Justice of the Peace Susan Anglin, who owns Triple A Farms with her husband, Ryan.
The Anglin farm is 6 miles west of Bentonville, just down the road from the fairgrounds. As 4-H members, the Anglins' sons showed dairy cattle as part of their 4-H projects from age 9 until they graduated high school. Ryan Anglin showed beef cattle during his high school years, Susan Anglin said. She worked in the livestock barn and the Benton County Farm Bureau petting zoo when her children participated and continued doing so five or six years after their years in 4-H ended, Anglin remembers.
For information on the Benton County Fair, visit www.bentoncountyfairar.org.