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Fair, families adjust to earlier school start

K.t. McKee
Anthony Sheppard demos the bubble gun at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Annabella Benson and her mom Breana Benson at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Olympic skier Holly Brooks talks with fans at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Anthony Sheppard demos the bubble gun at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Olympic skier Kikkan Randall visits with Caleb Mix and his mom Kathryn Mix at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Equestrian Arts perform at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Samantha Risch shoots her bubble gun at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Lauren Dorris, 5 years old, waves from the swing ride to family at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday September 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Abigail Hahn, her mother Tiffany Hahn and brother Payton Hahn look at the chick incubator at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday September 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Equestrian Arts perform at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Samantha Risch shoots her bubble gun at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Dale Marshall, left, of Anchorage set a new state record for his giant pumpkin entry at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, September 1, 2010. His weighed in at 1,101 pounds. Gidget Sanders, right, an Alaska Weights and Measures inspector, weighs the entry.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
McKenzie Miller takes a coffee order at the Kaladi Brothers stand at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Alaska Grown is one of the big themes of the Alaska State Fair.
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
Fair goers watch the fireworks display at the Alaska State Fair grounds in Palmer on Friday, Aug. 29, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair drew a crowd on Saturday, August 28, 2010, despite rain throughout the day.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Keith King of the King BMX Stunt Show entertains the crowd with his flat land riding skills on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Chloe Arntz, 3, of Chugiak, Alaska, gets a look at an entry in the Alaska State Fair giant pumpkin weigh-off. This entry by Dale Marshall of Anchorage set a new state record in the category. An Alaska Weights and Measures inspector recorded 1,101 pounds on Wednesday, September 1, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Show is one of the highlights of the Alaska State Fair. Lumberjack Dave Sievert, 20, preps for the log climb, one of the competitions at the show Friday morning. It took Sievert just seconds to climb the log, but he narrowly lost to fellow lumberjack Charlie Fenton, 20.
KAYLIN BETTINGER / Anchorage Daily News
Samantha Risch and Jamie Risch at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Fireworks burst over the Alaska State Fair on Friday night, August 27,
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
GCI Petting Zoo on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Jared Ward of the King BMX Stunt Show entertains the crowd on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Johnny Deadwyler of the King BMX Stunt Show entertains the crowd on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Fireworks light up the sky above the Alaska State Fair on Friday night, August 27,
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The GCI Petting Zoo was a popular location on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Earl Hunter of Las Vegas got his mohawk spiked and colored on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Lani Diaz swirls cotton candy on opening day at the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Ruby Miles photographs her granddaughter Jenna Byers, 7, standing behind a tractor cut out on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The Miracle Drummers and Dancers performed Yup'ik dances at the Colony Stage on Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
902-lb pumpkin on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Show is one of the highlights of the Alaska State Fair. Lumberjack Shane Sabit, 21, holds the rabbit he just carved with a chain saw during the morning show on Friday. Announcer Will Hoeschler, 19, looks on in the background.
KAYLIN BETTINGER / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Kenai Senior Center Swinging Golden Girls performed on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Wayne Grieme sets up his Professional Portrait Buttons booth at the Alaska State Fair. He's been operating the photo booth for 28 years at the State Fair. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Johnny Deadwyler of the King BMX Stunt Show entertains the crowd on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Karena King of the Miracle Drummers and Dancers performs a Yup'ik dance at the Colony Stage on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Lily Kerr, 2, gets a close look at a goat in the GCI Petting Zoo on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Harry Young, of Eagle River, puts a shine on his 1935 John Deere Model D in the barn at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
John Baum drives his 1939 Sears and Roebuck tractor to its display space in the Alaska State Fair barn. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Alaska State Fair poultry judge Phyllis Burney, right, examines a Rhode Island Red cock in the barn at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 25, 2010, in advance of the fair's opening day. Stacy Barnhart records the bird's scores. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Judy Gannaway of Chugiak is originally from Iowa and said she always gets corn at the state fair because "it's a little taste from home." Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Elias Haroldsen, 5, played hooky from school and got his face painted like a tiger on opening day at the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
John Baum parks his 1939 Sears and Roebuck tractor in the Alaska State Fair barn.The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
People flocked the Alaska Sate Fair grounds in Palmer on opening day Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010. View is from the Century Wheel looking towards Matanuska Peak.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Byron Conoley sets up the Fool the Guesser booth at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Luke Afcan of the Miracle Drummers and Dancers performs a Yup'ik dance at the Colony Stage on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Anna Van Diest, 10, left, and Tammy Allen work to prepare the T&T Refreshments stand at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 25, 2010. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Robert Schmidt, 7, and Gabe Crowdus, 9, examine a Triple D Farm and Hatchery egg hatching exhibit in the barn at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 25, 2010. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A three-month-old thorn thighed tortoise is briefly displayed on the back of its mother in the reptile exhibit in the Don Sheldon building at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Deb Stotts, left, and Katie Childs, both of Job Corps, set up a 4H crafts display on Wednesday at the State Fair. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

When Mat-Su and Anchorage school districts first announced a few years ago they'd be starting the school year before opening day of the Alaska State Fair, it wasn't clear how fair and school attendance would be affected by the calendar clash. For many years, classes didn't begin until after the fair ended on Labor Day.

But according to school and fair officials this week, students, parents and fair vendors have figured out ways to adjust to the change to keep everyone involved relatively happy.

"There's lots of juggling to make it all work," said Dean Phipps, director of fair marketing and communication. "School calendars are an intricate process. Some people say we should just change the fair dates, but that's like chasing a moving target."

Mat-Su Borough School District and the Anchorage School District began following school-year trends of Lower 48 districts for various reasons in 2006 and 2007, Phipps said. Federal standardized testing dates, grading periods, holiday vacations, and the desire to end the school year in May instead of in June were all driving factors for the earlier start.

One major fair group involving young people, 4-H, has had to make the most concessions to the changed calendar, Phipps said. They were able to move their horse show to an earlier date. But those with livestock at the fair have had to figure out how to get their animals fed while they're in school.

"We see more parents and older siblings pitching in to help take care of the animals," he said.

Phipps has been involved with calendar discussions between the school districts and fair officials for several years now, but this was the first year he was able to successfully convince Mat-Su administrators and the school board to at least have one of the district's in-service days on a Friday during the fair so that students could attend on a weekday without worrying about missing school.

"We wanted two in-service days -- August 27, which is Kids' Day at the fair, and September 3 -- and they agreed to September 3 since it works so well with the Labor Day weekend," Phipps said, adding he wasn't so lucky with Anchorage School District administrators.

"There was some interest from ASD school board members," he said. "But they were too far along in the scheduling process to adjust."

At least one Valley parent, Wasilla High School football coach Kent Rilatos, is allowing his three children to leave school after lunch Friday to be able to take advantage of the ticket discounts offered that day.

"It's a huge savings," Rilatos said Wednesday, adding that since his two oldest children attend Burchell High School, they will only miss one class that day. His youngest child is in fourth grade.

"It doesn't look good for a school coach to be pulling his kids out of school for the fair, but parents have to think about what makes the most economic sense sometimes," he said.

A few Wasilla Middle School teachers who gathered with Rilatos for lunch said they haven't noticed much of a drop in class attendance during fair weeks since the calendar change went into effect two years ago.

The school's principal, Amy Spargo, agreed, saying that since the school day for secondary students ends at 2 p.m., many teens can still enjoy the fair after school and on weekends.

"We know they've been to the fair because the next day they have 'fair hair,' " Spargo said with a laugh. "We see more absences during hunting season than during the fair."

Spargo's sister, Beth Valentine, sells her own beaded jewelry at the fair and said she hasn't noticed a drop in business since the change. She said she likes the fact that the school year ends earlier because her oldest children are able to find summer jobs near their Talkeetna home before they are snatched up by other students coming up from the Lower 48.

Phipps said many fair events and activities that cater to children now occur later in the day. Many Anchorage families adjust by waiting to come up to Palmer on the weekends, he said.

"Valley families come more often and are more weather-driven," Phipps said. "Anchorage folks bring RVs and stay the whole weekend. So it all works out."

Find K.T. McKee online at adn.com/contact/kmckee or call 907-352-6711.


By K.T. McKEE
kmckee@adn.com