COEUR d'ALENE - Facing a wall of framed memories in the fairgrounds' photo exhibition, Kay Van Cleave conjured her own recollections from a lifetime of visiting the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo.
Parking that cost 15 cents in the '50s. Peeking through the fence to watch rodeos that, she admitted, just plain stunk decades ago.
Things have evolved on the fairgrounds, she said.
"When we were kids, the fair was just animal booths and tractors," said Van Cleave, now superintendent of quilting at the annual fair. "Now it's a mixture of everything."
But don't take her word for it. See for yourselves.
Van Cleave, along with volunteers, vendors and 4-H kids, were prepping on Monday for the opening of the 2012 North Idaho Fair and Rodeo, kicking off Wednesday and running through Sunday.
Included as always will be an onslaught of 4-H competitions, carnival rides, community exhibits and sugary fare.
This year's event has brought in 170 vendors and more than 30 food vendors, said fair manager Chris Holloway.
"It's the tradition," Holloway said of the fair's allure. "Every year you go to meet new people, make new memories and have new experiences."
Holloway predicted a huge turnout as usual for the motocross on Wednesday and Thursday, the demolition derby on Sunday and the rodeo through the end of the week.
Like recent years, grandstand seats can be reserved for $5. Bleachers north of the arena are free seating.
"People have wanted to reserve a seat. It's worked out really well," Holloway said. "I've gotten so much positive feedback."
Like last year, beer will also be available for consumption at designated areas on the fairgrounds, including the foundation park, the clubhouse area and the beer garden.
Some attractions have been relocated this year, Holloway noted. The family fun park will now be next to the Mutton Bustin' ring. And photography entries numbered so many this year that the framed images of children, cats, fish and more will be exhibited underneath the grandstand.
The 800 entries are the most the fair has ever seen, said Ken Cook, superintendent of photography.
"Everyone has a cell phone with a camera on it," he reasoned.
Post Falls 14-year-old Tayler Ekness, tweaking the decorations for her 4-H goat stall on Monday, said she was excited to see her hard work pay off.
"It's my first year in goat. I'll do all right - it was 76 pounds at weigh-in, which is pretty great," Ekness said, adding that she cared well for the goat prone to getting stuck in buckets.
Her advice to others: "Come to the fair, and do 4-H. It's dying, and we like it."
Holloway noted that there will be experiences just for adults this year. Like the $20 wine tasting event from 5 - 8 p.m. on Wednesday. The Chicks N Chaps fundraiser at 3 p.m. on Friday, costing $65, will offer women's rodeo lessons, dinner, rodeo seating, fair admission, a gift bag and more. Proceeds will benefit the North Idaho Fair Foundation and the Kootenai Health Foundation Cancer Patient Support Program.
"We have a lot going on with our kids, and sometimes we forget our couples that want to come out and do date night at the fair, or ladies who want a getaway with their girlfriends," Holloway said.
This will be the second year for the after-rodeo party in the clubhouse, she added.
"Last year it was the place to be," she said.
The fair in recent years has fallen on opposite extremes of the weather, Holloway noted, either facing a deluge or heat wave.
This year's mild forecast has her hoping for turnout to jump from the 65,000 in previous years to 80,000.
"That would be really cool," Holloway said, reminding that tickets from the five-day fair comprise 80 percent of the event's revenue.
Gates open daily at 9 a.m.. Buildings are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Parking is $3. Tickets cost $9 for adults; $8 for seniors; $5 for kids 6 -12; free for kids 5 and younger.
To see the fair schedule, purchase tickets in advance, reserve grandstand tickets and more, go to: www.northidahofair.com.
Attraction times include:
• Motocross: Wednesday and Thursday. Qualifying heats begin at 4:30 p.m., races at 7 p.m.
• Rodeo: 6:30 p.m. on Friday; 6:30 p.m. on Saturday; 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
• Demolition Derby: 6 p.m. on Sunday.
• Draft Hose Show and Pull: 2 p.m. on Saturday.
• Texting Contest: Noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
SHAWN GUST/Press Jewell Wooldridge, a volunteer with the North Idaho Fair, references photographs while preparing the photo exhibit.