Even 131 years into its history, the Harvey County Free Fair is still coming up with new additions to its normal schedule of events, which will officially get started Aug. 1 and continue through Aug. 5 at the fairgrounds and 4-H building in Newton at Grandview Avenue and First Street.
For instance, Fair Board President Mike Riffel noted the group is working with the Newton Recreation Center to add a softball tournament Aug. 3 and 4 to this year's festivities. The addition is a replacement for a fastpitch tournament that used to be held at the same time.
Additionally, some fan-favorite events will have some new twists. For this year's demolition derby on Aug. 4, there will be a raffle for a derby-ready car. All proceeds of the raffle will go to the fair and the winner will punch their ticket to be part of the fan-favorite competition.
"Whoever wins the car, they just have to sign a waiver and they're in the demolition derby. That's kind of a big thing," Riffel said. "I think people like to watch cars hit each other; the crashes and stuff, the bangs. Whenever somebody bangs into somebody, it's like 'oh, ah!' There's a lot of fan noise."
Not enough additional excitement? There will also be a "powder puff derby" held between heats of the main event, which will utilize Power Wheels — with a raffle being held for a vehicle to enter that derby as well. Competitors will have balloons tied to the front and back of their cars, with the popping of those balloons eliminating drivers from the competition.
Overall, the full slate of events - also including traditional and ATV rodeos, tug of war, mud volleyball, a market in the park and more - draws about 10,000 people a year to the fair, according to Riffel. While there is truly something for everyone at the Harvey County Fairgrounds in the coming week, Riffel noted the youth and 4-H remains the core reason behind the fair and why he is a part of it.
"It's about the kids, just helping them out learning about agriculture, taking care of animals and the hard work it takes to do that, but there's also rewards that go along with that," Riffel said. "You put in the effort and the work and you get praise for it."
Judging for the 4-H competition will kick things off on Thursday, as will the annual fair parade at 7 p.m., with the rest of the festivities continuing to draw out competitors and fans alike. Support continues to pour out from the community in a multitude of ways (like the support of local businesses in the 4-H livestock auction) and Riffel said he is hoping the fair will be a win-win once again for all those who attend this year.
"I just hope they have a good time and they realize it does take a lot of work," Riffel said. "If you see someone working or you know a fair board member, just thank them. Thank the county commissioners, the city commissioners, city employees, county employees, everybody that helps us out."
Registration for most events is open until the day of and pricing will vary. For more information on various events and a full schedule, visit www.harveycountyfair.com.