Clay County Fair returns in big way

Spencer, Iowa — Following a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Clay County Fair powered by SMU returned September 11-19 with sunny skies and smiling fairgoers.

“There was much uncertainty heading into this Fair with the pandemic, a labor shortage, supply chain issues, and a 721-day break since the last Fair,” said Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons. “However, the enthusiasm of our fairgoers to simply be at the Fair put that uncertainty to rest once the gates opened.”

Fairgoers reacted favorably to many programming changes, including a new home for poultry and rabbits in the Farm Nutrients Small Animal Barn; stellar entertainment on the Midway Stage; the Manufacturing Expo presented by ISU Extension Clay County, which involved nine area high schools; the Fair’s first-ever Hispanic Festival on Sept. 12; a new shuttle route which traveled the southern edge of the fairgrounds; and 31 new foods.

“When the enthusiasm of the fairgoers mixed with the determination of our vendors, exhibitors, volunteers, staff and Board to put on the best Fair possible under the circumstances we were in, it created a beautiful nine days,” he said. “We are grateful and thankful.”

Parsons continued that the success of the 2021 Clay County Fair can be measured in several metrics, including:

Youth Involvement

  • 708 4-H and FFA exhibitors from 42 counties in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska participated in livestock and human sciences events at the Fair.
  • Approximately 1,300 third and fourth grade students from 16 regional schools visited the Fair as part of the AgCiting and SciCiting field trip programs coordinated by ISU Extension Clay County.

Fairgoer Spending

  • Preliminary fairgoer spending on food, beverage, specialty concessions, and carnival rides totaled $2,537,345.95, breaking an all-time record set in 2017.
  • Preliminary fairgoer spending set three single-day records for the first Sunday (Sept. 12), Wednesday (Sept. 15), and the second Saturday (Sept. 18).
  • GoldStar Amusements set single-day records for carnival ride revenue eight of the nine days of the Fair, including an all-time single-day record on Saturday, Sept. 18.

Exhibitor Participation

  • 456 commercial exhibitors, concessionaires, and vendors showcased at the Fair. With at least 150 ag-specific exhibitors, the Fair again hosted the largest farm machinery and ag equipment show at any fair in the United States.
  • 1,127 exhibitors participated in various open class livestock and non-livestock competitions.


  • The Sleep Number Grandstand attracted 18,585 fairgoers to multiple stage performances and dirt events. The top two attended events were Skillet with special guest Ledger (2,763) and Josh Turner with special guest Dillon Carmichael (2,698).
  • Overall Fair attendance totaled 277,389. Complete daily attendance numbers can be found at 

“With all of the uncertainty before the Fair, we were unsure what the numbers would be like after the Fair,” said Parsons. “While numbers only tell part of the success story of a fair each year, we are extremely pleased with fairgoer attendance and spending at this year’s Fair.”

More detailed information on the 2021 Clay County Fair powered by SMU will be made available at the Clay County Fair Association’s annual meeting on October 26. Lifetime memberships to the Fair Association are available for $100. Call (712) 580-3000 for more information.

About The Clay County Fair & Events Center Rooted in Tradition, the Clay County Fair and Events Center is a year-round facility that annually hosts more than 300 events, including its signature event, the Clay County Fair powered by SMU. Known as “The World’s Greatest County Fair” since 1917, the Fair attracts more than 300,000 guests each September for nine-days of world-class entertainment, competition, food, fun, and the largest farm machinery show at any fair in the United States. Additional information can be found at