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New attractions, shorter format to greet visitors this week in Huron

HURON -- Several new attractions and a new, shorter format are part of the 2006 South Dakota State Fair, according to fair manager Susan Hayward, but one thing has stayed the same -- the price to get in.

HURON -- Several new attractions and a new, shorter format are part of the 2006 South Dakota State Fair, according to fair manager Susan Hayward, but one thing has stayed the same -- the price to get in.

"We have not raised our (admission)," she said, "We've tried very hard to make sure it's affordable for families. We've had some pressure to raise that gate. With revenue, we're under the gun. We didn't do that, we need our families to come out and enjoy it."

The fair opens Thursday and runs through Monday in Huron. It's the first year with the new five-day format, as determined by state Agriculture Secretary Larry Gabriel.

The fair previously lasted eight days annually, but in November, Gabriel shortened it, saying that it may have been too long for students who are already busy with the school year and fall sports. He also said he hopes the shorter format will consolidate attendance, lowering operating costs for both vendors and the state.

At least one promotion also hopes to boost attendance. Community Day will be Sunday, and anyone who wears an article of clothing with their hometown's name on it receives $1 off admission.

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"We want people to come in and brag about where they live," Hayward said. "Nobody needs to pay full price."

The state fair has added a few new attractions that will hopefully bring more visitors to the fair, Hayward said.

Bengal tigers lounging in their enclosure on the fair grounds are the new attraction that was garnering the most attention Tuesday. There are 40 tigers in the Marcan Tiger Preserve in Florida's panhandle, nine of which are participating in shows at this year's fair.

"One of the unique things about this group is that there are four colors of Bengal tigers that they come in naturally: The standard orange and black, the white with black stripes, the golden tabby, and the snow whites (which) are the rarest. We have three of those; there are only 25 of those anywhere," said tiger handler Michael Inks. "It's a neat opportunity for people to see tigers that they probably would have never seen before."

The tigers spent Tuesday snoozing and playing. They sleep between 15 to 18 hours a day.

They will be part of an educational program titled "The Tigers of India." The first show will take place at 10:45 a.m. Thursday at the south end of the fairgrounds.

The fair will also feature a new BMX stunt show this year, Hayward said.

"They'll talk to kids about wearing helmets and making good choices," she said.

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Also on Thursday is a veterans' program that will include all of South Dakota's congressional delegates, including Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.; Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; and Rep. Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D.

"This is just our way to say thank you to the vets," Hayward said.

Mitchell 4-Hers are gearing up for the fair, getting locally created exhibits and livestock shuttled to Huron for showing. According to Davison County Extension Office administrative assistant Deb Knudsen, the number of state-level 4-H participants at the 2006 State Fair is up. Last year, there were 104 local livestock and 286 static exhibits that made it to the fair. This year, there are 315 static exhibits and 123 livestock exhibits.

Hayward felt attendance at this year's fair should compete with last year.

"I expect we'll see the same number of people, if not more, because we've condensed it into the five days," she said.

Daily admission is $5 for adults and $2 for youth 6 to 12 years old. Admission is free for children 5 and under.

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