Montana State Fair kicks off in Great Falls
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- This weekend marks the start of Montana's annual State Fair in Great Falls, expected to bring thousands to the Electric City from around the state.
John Hanschen is in charge of Thomas Carnival Inc., in charge of overseeing the carnival portion of the State Fair, and says he's been to Great Falls at least 30 times since 1976, when he first helped to set up the fair.
Hanschen says they make 50 different stops on their annual calendar, which involve travel through 12 states.
When the fair and carnival season stops in the northern part of the US once winter gets underway, they travel through the South, with events as early in the year as February, and as late as November.
While the travel can be grueling, Hanschen says there are a couple of things that keep him coming back every year.
"The young families are really fun to watch, as they come on to the midway for the first time each year," Hanschen said. "And we have a high obligation to take care of them and watch after their needs as best we can and have a good operation so that they have a nice time."
With COVID-19 causing shutdowns last year, business was impacted significantly by both the cancellation of fairs and carnivals, and the limited capacity they had to operate with for the events that still took place.
With Texas opening back up this past April, operations have been steady since, and will continue all the way through November as they make their way across the country.
Like many businesses right now, the carnival has also been experiencing a worker shortage. 

“It’s hard to hire people. We used to be in a lot of places we would visit, people would be waiting to apply, and we don’t have that right now. You know, they've got jobs and You see a lot of help wanted signs in every town you go to," Hanschen said.

Luckily, in every town they go to Hanschen said there are always some regulars who look forward to working at the fair when it comes around.

The State Fair officially opens on Friday, and will run in Great Falls through next weekend. You can find out everything you need to know about the fair here

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