HARTINGTON — In the early 2000s, the future of the Cedar County Fair was up in the air.
Poor attendance plagued the annual event. The Cedar County Ag Society entered into a lawsuit against a carnival that failed to provide services here and county residents were forced to accept balloon inflatables in lieu of the typical carnival rides.
That’s when Larry Dybdal and Rich Newton decided to stir things up.
The two Cedar County Ag Society members were elected to lead the organization, and good things have happened since.
The duo was honored last week for their service and dedication to the Cedar County Fair.
Allen Heine presented the Presidents Award to Larry Dybdal and Rich Newton and told them their leadership and persistence has taken the Cedar County Fair to great achievements.
Dybdal and Newton have served as co-presidents of the Ag Society/Fair Board for approximately 10 years.
Under the direction of Dybdal and Newton a “free gate” was established which brought in more visitors to the fair, a carnival was secured for the event and top-notch entertainment was brought in.
“We went from no carnival to having a multi-year contract with a carnival,” Heine said. “Under their watch we started bringing in big name entertainment. There was no fee to get in the gate – but we charged for the main entertainment.”
What started out as a bullarama has now become a full-fledged rodeo according to Heine.
“Some fantastic things have happened with the rodeo,” Heine said.
Two new buildings were constructed: one is used for the Quilt and School Exhibits and one for the Small Animal Show.
Air-conditioning has been installed in the Open-class building and the Commercial Building.
Sharing the position of president of the Ag Society has worked out well for Dybdal and Newton.
They grew up in the same neighborhood and have known each other since they were young boys.
“We are life-long friends – we grew up as neighbors and we are still neighbors,” Newton said. “We each have different ideas but things just click for us. If we disagree we work it out.”
There is a special bond among all of the 18 members who serve on the Fair Board according to Newton.
“Our board is kind of like an extended family – we rely on one another,” he said.
Newton and Dybdal made some difficult decisions as board presidents.
One decision involved having the Ag Society obtain a liquor license and open a beer garden on the fairgrounds.
“We seen the beer walking by us at the fair every year and we decided to capitalize on the sales of the beer. It was a hard decision to make,” Newton said.
A lot of thought went into taking the step to spend the extra money to bring in well-known entertainment.
“The first year I came on the board we went to big entertainment. Waiting to see if it would work was hard but it has done real well,” Newton said.
Choosing the entertainment for the County Fair is not an easy job according to Dybdal
“You never know what people will like and you know you won’t be able to please everyone,” Dybdal said. “There is a lot more to the fair than the entertainment but it is still a big part of the fair.”
There is one thing that can affect the attendance at the fair but is impossible to control.
“You can’t fight the weather,” Dybdal said.
There is one thing that encourages Dybdal to continue the effort of putting on a good county fair.
“I enjoy seeing people – from the young to the older ones – come out to the fair,” he said.
Dybdal and Newton’s hard work and dedication have been a big plus for the Cedar County Fair according to Heine.
“I would hate to see either man step down as co-presidents,” Heine said.
Newton said he has been thinking about giving up the responsibilities involved in serving as co-president of the Fair Board.
“If the right person wants to do it I would step down,” Newton said.
Newton would be willing to help out during the first year if the new co-president needed some assistance.
“It is a lot of responsibility,” Newton said. “There are a lot of phone calls, meetings and daily emails along with decisions that have to be made.”
Newton would like see some younger people get involved with the Ag Society and serve as officers on the board.
Officers for the Ag Society are elected each year in November.