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Fair Condition

August 7, 2003, 10:00 PM by Don Jorgensen

Fair Condition

Click here to watch this story(Windows Media) Ferris wheels, tilt-a-whirls, merry-go-rounds. Just a few of the rides you'll find at almost every fair. But the spinning action and loud noise at the Turner County Fairgrounds in Parker on June 24th wasn't coming from any ride. It was the violent rotation and the crashing sounds of an F-2 Tornado. "We were in the basement, and we had KELO on, and I heard the grandstand was gone...," said Bob Merrill, Turner County Fair Manager. "That grandstand was built like a fortress, and I told my wife, 'If the grandstand is gone, we haven't got a thing left at the fairgrounds.'" Although it wasn't that bad, many couldn't believe the damage. The roof of the grandstand was gone. So were several other buildings. With the fair only six weeks away, the longest running county fair in South Dakota was now in jeopardy. Bob Merrill says, "There was a lot going through my mind. I thought, 'How can this happen.?'" Within hours the decision was made to rebuild. But with the fair only six weeks away, they were going to have to move fast. Board by board, nail by nail, five crews of builders answered that call. Larry Miller is one of the contractors rebuilding the grandstand. He has memories of the fair and grandstand, and, when it was severely damaged, he wanted his company to rise to the occasion. Larry Miller says, "The Turner County Fair means a lot to me. As a kid, I grew up in this area. It was an important fair to me then, and it is now." Important enough to move it ahead of other projects. Miller says, "Our normal deadline on projects of this size is usually seven to eight weeks. We basically had to cut that in half." The Turner County Fair has been a part of this community for so many years. After the storm hit, there was no question who was going to come to help the community. There are roofs to replace, wires to restring, but there's plenty of electricity in the air. "Probably the most gratifying site was on Saturday, afterwards, when the 4-H Club came in. These little kids from seven and eight on up were carrying pails around picking up little pieces, cleaning up the parking lot." As crews continue to hammer away, confidence is building. "We broke all records last year on attendance and we think we can do it again." The Turner County Fair is Aug 11th - 14th. This will be its 123rd year of operation.

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