Drenching rain drowns many Big Four Fair activities

By Bob Fenske, of the Nashua Reporter

When Nancy Hillesheim says she has never experienced a Big Four Fair quite like this one, that’s saying something; after all, she’s been the Fair Board secretary since 1980.

“We’ve had a storm or two, but this was absolutely crazy,” Hillesheim said after the fair ended its five-day run on Monday. “It was just too much rain. We made the best of it, but, holy smokes, Mother Nature owes us next year because she was pretty nasty to us this week.”

How bad was it? Well, consider this: The fair had three evening grandstands scheduled, and only one — a tractor pull on Friday night — went off as planned.

On Saturday, kayak races were held instead of the figure-eight races, and a night later, mud dodgeball replaced the “Tough Truck Races,” proving that Mother Nature can indeed be tougher than a truck.

There was good news sprinkled into the weekend. 

The chuckwagon races were held on Sunday afternoon, although they had to be cancelled on Monday because the track wasn’t much of a track anymore after almost 5 inches of rain over the weekend. 

The entries in some shows — including floral and the horse and pony show — increased this year.

And the Commercial Building vendors actually benefited from the rain.

“I talked to vendors who said they had one of their best years,” Hillesheim said. “That’s because people were trying to find a place to stay dry.”

Still, Hillesheim said 2018 provided the most challenging fair she’s had in her 38 years with the event that brings together the people of Chickasaw, Floyd, Butler and Bremer counties.

“We took a financial hit, the carnival suffered, everyone did really,” she said. “No one got rich, that’s a good way to put it. Even when it wasn’t raining, we had that threat and that kept people away.”

Yet, she said, she appreciates the willingness of fairgoers and her fellow Fair Board members to roll with the proverbial punches.

“We’ve never had to deal with so much mud and rain,” she said, “and it hurt us, no doubt about it. But we’ll be OK. There’s nothing i can do — or any of us can do — about the weather. But we’ll be back next year and Mother Nature better behave.”

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