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Livestock, online auction drew solid support at fair

by KIANNA GARDNER
Daily Inter Lake | September 16, 2020 12:00 AM

Based on the most recent numbers from the 2020 Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo, highlights from this year’s event included market livestock entries, the online livestock auction and the rodeo.

Mark Campbell, manager of the Flathead County Fairgrounds, presented the report to the Flathead County commissioners Tuesday morning.

According to Campbell, online auction results established a new record of $642,569, or about $85,000 higher than the previous record.

Market livestock had 312 entries, which is up slightly from last year’s entries. Out of the 312 entries, 14 did not qualify for market because they were awarded a white ribbon. However, Campbell said “individuals stepped up and purchased those animals privately.”

Rodeo participation was also up, though specific numbers were not provided in the report.

The Flathead County Fair Board made a last-minute decision to switch stock vendors for the event and Campbell said that contractor “lived up to all expectations and beyond. The stock was excellent.”

Due to the lack of rodeos occurring nationwide because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Campbell also said the event drew in a number of top-tier, high level competitors nationwide. All three days of rodeo action were broadcast on live television and based on initial estimates from the Professional Rodeos Cowboy Association (PRCA), more than 1.4 million viewers tuned in.

“We exposed our product to a wide range and it was well-received,” Campbell said.

While the livestock and rodeo portions of the fair proved to be major high points, attendance was down from previous years, as were the number of vendors and exhibitors.

Overall, 32,172 people attended the fair, which is equal to about 40% of last year’s fair, and gate admission sales were about 16% of the previous year — two decreases fair officials had anticipated due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Fifteen food and beverage vendors participated this year, compared to 24 last year. Campbell said that decrease can be partially attributed to a lack of available workers.

Finally, exhibit program participation was soft at nearly 4,500 items from 598 exhibitors. That’s about 50% fewer entries than last year, Campbell said.

Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4407 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com