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A fair place to be: Washington County Fair runs through Sunday

Youth 4-H animal competitions are among perennially popular attractions at the Washington County Fair. The fair runs Wednesday through Sunday. (Bulletin file photo)

Organizers of the Washington County Fair make it a point to introduce new attractions each year just to mix things up.

The fair runs Wednesday to Sunday, July 30-Aug. 3, at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Lake Elmo. It’s expected to draw 55,000 people with its five days of carnival rides, 4-H arts and animal exhibitions, live music, food booths, dray horse pull, talent show and demolition derby.

New this year is the Monster Summer Truck Smash. The mutually assured destruction gets underway at 7 p.m. Friday at the grandstand.

“We try to bring in something new and do it for two years and then bring in something else,” said Eileen Tank, open class exhibit coordinator for the fair.

However, some events at the fair have become so popular that they’re practically sacred cows, so to speak. Consider, for example, the popular Swinetime Pig Races. This running of the bacon features pot-bellied pigs in a frantic, spirited dash around a grassy track. The first porker to cross the finish line gets to taste sweet victory in a very literal sense.

“They have an Oreo cookie on a silver platter,” Tank said. “When the gates open up these pigs tear out. There’s always four pigs running at a time.”

It’s over in a flash of snouts and tails. But if you blink and miss it, there are several pig races each day.

Another perennial favorite is the open class exhibition. This is where folks express themselves in categories like needlecraft, gardening, fruit preserves, woodworking, baking, rabbits and poultry. Depending on each entrant’s particular passion, blue ribbons could be awarded to the best blooming rose, head of cabbage, quilt or chicken.

Nearly 6,000 people participated in last year’s open class exhibition, Tank said.

Another favorite is the daily horse show. Friday’s event, the Washington County Residents Horse Show, is devoted exclusively to local horse owners.

“It’s just like a small (Minnesota) state fair,” Tank said. “We have everything. We have the carnival, We have children’s activities. We have a senior citizens day. We have bands and music.”