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76th Ozark Empire Fair Will have a few Changes

Drought and triple digit heat will likely still be lingering as the Ozarks Empire Fair ushers in its 76th year...but organizers say the weather won't stop the fair from being a success.  KSMU’s Matthew Barnes reports.

The Ozark Empire Fair opens Friday, July 27th. It's been a family friendly staple for Springfield for generations. This year will have familiar music and entertainment, but according to Elvin Dunn, general manager for the fair, there are some new additions.

“The east hall is going to have a different look this year. The emphasis will be on locally grown and prepared food,” said Dunn.

The name of that area will change from “Family Living” to “Life and Arts.” It will feature cooking stations with local chefs, a farmer's market and local wines.

“Ken Meyers. He has a great vineyard and he is now producing wine and he will have a display both in there,” said Dunn.

Dunn says the Life and Arts area will provide healthier food options compared to the corn dogs, root beer and chocolate-covered-bacon that can be found in other areas of the fair.

The fairground will feature the RC-48, a bigger roller coaster than the fair has seen in recent years. It will be accompanied by pig races, a huge display to show the Olympic Games, and strongman John Beatty.

“When I say strongman, he is strong. When I was in Vegas I watched him there. He just took a horseshoe and with his bare hands just twisted it into an S,” said Dunn.

In the center hall will be a contest to see who can keep their hand on a Nissan Versa the longest. Contestants will be standing the whole time and getting a ten minute break every hour.  The person who holds onto the car the longest will take it home with them.

Music has always been a major part of the fair. According to Dunn, every night the fair will have different folk, bluegrass and gospel performances in the grandstand with varying ticket prices.

Dunn says set up for the fair is going smoothly and the drought has not affected any of the vendors attending. He says the heat usually takes more of a toll on resident turn out.

“The first year I was here the weather was great, attendance was great. The next year it was hotter, attendance went down. Last year we had days of 108 degrees, it further went down. We hope and pray for a cool down because the heat does play a part in who will come out of their air conditioned homes,” said Dunn.

The Life and Arts section of the fair will be air conditioned. Dunn says he hopes that it will be enough to help cool down fair-goers. Meteorologists predict that the weather will still be very hot that week.

The Ozarks Empire Fair starts 11 a.m. Friday at the Empire Fairground and will continue until August 4th. For a link to the fair website, you can visit www.KSMU.org.

For KSMU News, I’m Matthew Barnes.