The county fair is an institution with roots as old as America itself, but that doesn't mean fair organizers don't adapt with the times.
Organizers of the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo are highlighting new features that place current technology alongside such time-honored fair traditions as funnel cakes and cattle roping.
For example, fairgoers this week who want to shoot photos and videos with their cellphones won't have to worry about running out of power because they'll be able to quickly charge up their electronic devices at one of the new charging stations at the fairgrounds.
Fair Manager Lori Lancaster told the Herald that the stations can charge a cellphone in seven minutes -- meaning attendees quickly can juice up their devices and get back to enjoying everything the fair has to offer.
Other improvements include a new viewing platform for the Horse Heaven Round-Up Rodeo, new camping spaces and a new 24-foot fan in the stock barn "to help keep the animals nice and cool," Lancaster said.
Lancaster also is excited about the expanded barbecue contest Saturday.
"It will be bigger and better than ever," she said.
Although it isn't new, Lancaster also wanted to highlight the fair's consumer protection program, which helps families enjoy the fair safely from public health risks.
The program includes the placement of 30 hand-washing stations and 20 hand-sanitizing stations throughout the Benton County Fairgrounds, with special attention around livestock barns and eating areas, where signs are posted to remind people to wash their hands.
Fairgoers also can pick up free bottles of hand sanitizer at Old McDonald's Barn.
And at night, the fair hires a company to sanitize walkways and railings in the livestock barns to help avoid the possible spread of germs, Lancaster said.
Lancaster noted that the program has become a model for other fairs.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org