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IF I RAN THE FAIR I'd have a big museum and a room that had lots of caterpillars and you could watch them turn into butterflies," says Annie Kennedy, a third-grader from Lowell Elementary School in Salt Lake City.

Her classmate, Kristen Lewis, wrote, "If I ran the fair . . . there would be important things like bathrooms and trash cans!"Kristen and Annie were among the 130 winners in the annual Utah State Fair Essay Contest. "If I Ran the Fair" and "Favorites at the Fair" were the two subjects given to school students in third through ninth grades.

According to Jackie Nokes, the fair's director, there were 1,003 entries this past year from 22 schools - an increase of 114 essays and one school.

"This was a record number, and from all accounts of reading the very colorful, fun, essays, the children truly learned about the many facets of our state by attending the fair," Nokes said.

She said participation and interest in the essay program is growing each year, providing an excellent impetus for the young students to become involved in the fair and in their communities.

"The fair is about kids and for kids, and if we can please the young people . . . that's what it's all about," Nokes said.

Plaques were awarded to a top winner in each grade. Cash prizes and ribbons were presented to more than 130 of those entered.

"If I ran the fair . . . I'd change things around a little bit," said 9-year-old Justin Memmott, Payson. "I'd have less animals because they take up so much room. I would rather have more things like science and things about other countries."

"I would lower the prices if I ran the fair," said Stacy Whittaker, a seventh-grader from Milford. "Also I would have gypsies come and do spells."

Third-grader Dietrich Epperson expressed a desire to have aliens give a flying saucer show. "I would also have a swimming pool and a fireworks show."

Many of the children expressed a desire to have some form of transportation to get them around the fair.

"If I ran the fair . . . I'd have elephants to take you around, and I'd have big, big tents," wrote Kimberly Pace, a fourth-grader from Provo. "And I would have candy hidden everywhere."

Sarah Loy, in the third grade at Lowell Elementary School, said she would "have oxen pulling a cart to ride in."

"I would have a place where you can rent a bike and go on a bike course. I'd have a track where you could run races," said Penny Cannon, a sixth-grader from Brigham City. "If I ran the fair I would have a place to dance. I would make changes and I'd have a show going on all the time and I would have more benches and chairs to sit on."

Many students expressed a desire to have everything FREE!

"If I ran the fair . . . I would lower the price on soda pop because some of the kids aren't millionaires!" said Jim Keller, Brigham City.

Gragn Ethn McAffee, eighth grade, Summit Middle School, Kamas, wants to let teachers, school kids and bus drivers in free. "If I ran the fair I'd get more free things, I'd lower the prices on tickets, put more interesting things in and make the fair funner," wrote Donald Gerde, a fourth-grader from Goshen. His classmate, Marc Cardenas "would make the foods and drinks cheaper."

The essays revealed the children's concern for the animals and their care. Jenny Buxton, who's in the sixth grade in Farmington, said, "If I ran the fair the animals would have a bath every day. The horses would brush their teeth, cows would use mouth wash and pigs wouldn't gush in the mud . . . only buttermilk."

"If I ran the fair I would make it more interesting and enjoyable. I would have mud volleyball played with a cash award of $70 for the winning team. Afterwards, we'd watch mud wrestling with a $50 prize," wrote Chad Orison, sixth grade, Knowlton Elementary School, Franklin.

The young essayists also suggested that the fair be "in Europe," "in Virginia," "in St. George" - and one said it wouldn't be a bad idea to have the fair three times a year.

"If I ran the fair I'd have at least three fairs a year. One in the spring for the flowers, another in the summer for the mountains, and a city fair," wrote Desiree Gallenson, a Nibley Park fifth-grader. "I would also have pie-eating contests, coloring contests and balloon rides."

Jessica Hansen would give the fair a patriotic touch. Since we've been noting the U.S. Constitution's bicentennial, "I'd have a whole bunch of the Constitution and Bill of Rights for free."

Daniel Roberts, 9, likes the fair the way it is and wouldn't change it. "I like it very much and the price is right too . . . but I would add army tanks and planes."

Some young writers would be interested in seeing and hearing political speakers at the fair if they were running it. "I'd have Ronald Reagan come and give a speech and have fireworks all over the place," wrote Kathryn Rees, a sixth-grader from Fruit Heights. Jessica Sue Peterson, a fifth-grader from Brigham City, "would have the governor come and tell us things."

A few children would make the rides at the fair more like an amusement park. Many would have bigger slides, higher ferris wheels, ice skating rinks, bowling alleys, roller skating rinks and bike trails.

"If I ran the fair I'd have more rides like Disneyland, and diving boards and platforms like Lava Hot Springs, and I would have a space exhibit like the Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida," wrote Patrick McFarland, Ogden.

Ross Errigo would invite professional skateboarders to show some stunts if he was running the fair. He is in the sixth grade in Fruit Heights. Sixth-grader John Larsen from Farmington would put in helicopter rides, balloon rides and have a fun house.

Many of the essays showed concern for the handicapped and small children. Some would like to see more family-oriented booths and affairs.

"Running the fair would be difficult," said 11-year-old Gerald Hodgkinson, Ogden. "I'd approve all the booths fit for a typical family. I'd have more security officers and the rides would be checked every morning for safety. Besides these ideas I'd keep the fair just like it is . . . interesting and fun!"

Suzanne Ruf of Peoa, who attends South Summit Middle School, expressed the feelings of a great number of the students:

"In general I liked the fair a lot and I know that it would be very hard to do much better than what was already here."