Red Willow County commissioners Monday approved a beer garden in conjunction with the second annual "McCook Farm and Ranch Expo" scheduled Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 18 and 19, on the county fairgrounds in McCook.
At the commissioners' weekly meeting Monday morning, farm and ranch expo promoter Darren Dale of rural Benkelman told commissioners that the beer garden will be located inside the Kiplinger Arena, with security at all doors to keep the beer inside that facility. The new feature of the expo "will allow those at the expo to have an adult beverage as they walk around and enjoy the vendors."
Dale said the farm and ranch expo is not a 4-H event and is not geared toward children, who are in school throughout much of the two days of the event. A caterer for the event will provide the liquor license for the event, he said.
The fair board has unanimously approved the beer garden, Dale said, and he will also seek the approval of the McCook city council.
Commissioner Steve Downer said this should be no different than the bull-riding expo in April that had a beer garden during it. "We're not setting a precedent," he said. Commission chairman Earl McNutt said he has no issue with the beer garden, "as long as it is managed and the alcohol is kept away from minors. This is different than having a beer garden at the county fair." Dale responded, "This is my job. The last thing I want to do is jeopardize my job."
Dale said the first expo was very well received by vendors, although attendance by spectators may have been affected slightly by farmers still picking corn. Dale counted about 220 exhibitors last year, and plans 300 vendors from 20 states and Canada this year.
"For the two days last year," Dale said, "we booked up every motel room in town."
This year's schedule includes appearances by three-time world champion bareback rider Will Lowe and pig racing inside a 35-foot track. "There's no gambling and no betting," Dale said. "It's real comical. And the winning pig gets an Oreo cookie."
Admission and parking are free. The expo is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18, and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 19.
Dale said the event is expensive to put on. "My wife and I thought a beer garden could increase our revenue," he said.
Commissioners unanimously approved Dale's request for the beer garden.