COLUMBIA — Boone County fair attendees were happy to see the sun setting Friday evening, leaving them with a new thirst for entertainment and ways to spend money.
Lisa Penney and her three children, from Columbia, were playing carnival games for two hours while waiting for the sun to go down. Penney said the “full flavor of the fair is in full swing" when it gets dark.
“Tonight will be a good night for the fair since it is the beginning of the weekend and Jake Owens will be here,” Penney said. “The kids will probably want to go on the rides after it gets dark, so we are just waiting around playing games.”
Penney said that even though she spent more money on carnival games than what it took for her kids and herself to get into the fair, “it has been well worth every penny of it.”
Penney and her children were so intent on riding the fair rides that they ignored The Bunny Game stand as they walked by.
The bunnies were laying down in the shade behind the stand's sign, trying to stay out of the heat. Diane Smith, working at The Bunny Game stand, said the bunnies do not start running around for the kids to enjoy until dusk arrives, and the weather gets cooler. She said they have not given out a single bunny as a prize since the fair began on Wednesday because it has been so hot.
The Bunny Game involves throwing a ping-pong ball into a bowl floating on water. If a basket is made, a bunny is given away as a prize.
“It is so hot no one will play until 8 o’clock,” Smith said.
Smith, who is from Oklahoma, has worked five years for Lowery, one of the two companies that run most of the fair games.
Next door, at the Culligan water booth, Wes Brown of Columbia watches fairgoers line up for free water.
“I want to take before and after photos of these guys,” he said.
This will be Brown’s second night at the fair, and he thinks that last year’s fair was not quite as hot. He said he has been giving out more water this year, but it is hard to compare because this year's fair is longer.
Five-year-old Shane Theissen, from Columbia, was an active Culligan water booth attendee. Shane’s mother, Kathy, said he has been “slipping away all day to the Culligan man,” in order to get free water to handle the heat.
“I am waiting for the weekend so me and my dad can get the bands and ride all of the rides on the fair’s longest day,” Shane said.
Justin Wooden has been part of the gate and parking crew for 12 years and said that people start coming in at night. “It is hard to beat last year because it was perfect weather, and this year is just so hot,” he said. “But at night people come flocking in no matter what.”
Wooden said this is one of the cheapest county fairs he knows of and that a lot of the events inside are free.
“You just have to drink a lot and come to have a good time. That is what a fair is all about.”