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New and improved North Iowa Fair opens Wednesday

MASON CITY — Hot air balloons, monster trucks and horses of various sizes are some of the main attractions for the North Iowa Fair in Mason City this week.

The fair festivities will officially kick off Wednesday.

Julie Lonning is in her second year as North Iowa Events Center manager and said she wanted to spice up the fair this year.

“Last year, most of the planning was already done when I took over so this is kind of my ‘first’ fair,” Lonning said. “I looked around last year and it almost looked like any other day here, not a fair.”

To start, Lonning brought in the fair’s first Hot Air Balloon Rally as a new feature. Also, the midway will return with rides and games.

“I wanted color and noise,” Lonning said. “We haven’t had a midway in a while so we’re excited about that.”

There will be four balloon launches Friday, Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting. The rally will include a dozen hot air balloons.

Monster trucks will take over the speedway for two nights, Thursday and Friday.

“A lot of people like to come out for the pony rides, so they’ll be back,” Lonning said. Horseman of Iowa will provide the free pony rides twice, 7 p.m. Wednesday and 6 p.m. Saturday.

Dragonfire Dancing Horses will return for several performances Friday through Sunday.

Borderline Band will provide live entertainment 7 p.m. Friday. GRIN Band will take the stage 7 p.m. Saturday.

The fair will also feature 25 to 30 interesting farm implements and tractors as opposed to last year when there were only three, she said. Activities will continue, almost non-stop, through the weekend.

“It’s been a lot of work,” Lonning said. “It’s really expanded.

The fair is free admission and free parking. Grandstand events will charge admission.

Anti-Trump effort fails on floor of RNC

CLEVELAND — An effort by those hostile to Donald Trump failed in an effort to force a roll call vote on the convention rules here Monday afternoon, prompting chaos on the floor and reports on social media, declared false by Iowa party leaders, that the state delegation had walked off the floor.

Never Trump forces have been pushing for weeks to allow delegates to vote for somebody other than him to be the party’s nominee. But after efforts failed in the rules committee last week, the anti-Trump forces pushed for a floor vote, a fight that came to a head Monday.

At first it appeared the convention was headed for a roll call vote on the rules, but convention chair, Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack, reported that while nine states, a sufficient number, had requested it, three had withdrawn, thus squelching the effort.

That announcement prompted a loud roar from the floor, with anti-Trump forces protesting and supporters of the presumptive Republican nominee chanting his name.

Iowa delegate Cecil Steinmetz, who lives near Des Moines, walked off the floor and shortly after didn’t appear interested in coming back.

“For what reason?” he asked. “It’s a sham.”

Steinmetz, who has been urging Iowa delegates to back somebody other than Trump, said there was majority support for a roll call vote and there was a stall to get some of the nine states to withdraw their support for a roll call vote.

Shortly after the chair’s announcement, there were reports on Twitter the Iowa delegation had walked off the floor in protest. Party leaders said that wasn’t true.

“Contrary to the reporting, Iowa’s delegation did not walk off the floor,” GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann tweeted.

There also were conflicting reports about whether Iowa was one of the nine states seeking a roll call vote.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said the Iowa delegation initially backed a roll call vote but was one of the states that withdrew the request, according to a tweet from an Omaha World-Herald reporter. A Branstad spokesman, Ben Hammes, confirmed shortly after that was the case.

A short time later, however, he said he and the governor were mistaken and no request for a vote from Iowa was ever filed.

There were reports the Trump campaign threatened Iowa’s first in the nation presidential caucuses over the matter. The Omaha World Herald reported that Branstad said that he and his son, Eric Branstad, Trump’s state director in Iowa, pointed out to delegates their actions could jeopardize the state.

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli said Kaufmann told him threats were made, according to Talking Points Memo.

But Kaufmann told reporters Monday evening that he, not the Trump campaign, brought up the caucuses during the discussion. And he rejected the idea the state was threatened.

“There was no Trump campaign that was telling me anything. I just know intuitively that (as) first in the nation, we cannot be one of the states doing that,” he said. “There’s no marching orders.”

(Reporters Rod Boshart and Todd Dorman contributed to this article).

Medical supply company considering Mason City location

MASON CITY — Mason City is on a short list of possible locations for a 100,000-square-foot medical supply manufacturing facility, a development official says.

North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation President Chad Schreck said Monday that representatives from the company toured Mason City and Clear Lake last week while in the area to view a potential site.

“We just show incredibly well and it really does give us a leg up,” he said during Monday’s Clear Lake City Council meeting. “It just reinforces for me that if we can get people here and we can show them what we have to offer, it’s a powerful story we’ve got to continue to emphasize.”

He said the overseas-based company is considering building on Mason City’s certified shovel-ready site on 43rd Street Southwest.

The facility could bring 70-80 jobs.

“They’re looking for a certified site. We’ve got a great one,” Schreck said. “We had a really positive meeting with them last week.”

He said it will be a few months before the company makes a decision.

“We’re not trying to get anybody too excited, because none of these are a sure thing,” Schreck said.

Mason City Administrator Brent Trout said it’s exciting that the company is considering the city, but it’s too early in the process to reveal many details.

“They’re good-paying jobs with a diverse type of jobs within the company,” he said.

Wright County passes rules for Prestage hearings

CLARION — The Wright County Board of Supervisors has established rules for upcoming public hearings regarding a proposed pork processing plant.

Attendees who want to speak at the hearings must provide proof of residence and sign in on a registration form 30 minutes prior to the meeting, according to a resolution passed Monday.

The hearing regarding the $240 million Prestage Foods of Iowa plant locating in rural Wright County is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. July 25.

“We don’t want our public hearings to become a circus,” Wright County Economic Development Director Bryce Davis said.

Each registered speaker will have two minutes to speak. Public discussion will be limited to two hours.

Wright County Public Hearing rules

“Wright County residents will speak first, then the bordering counties and after that, if there’s time, people from the other areas not surrounding our county may speak,” Davis said.

Organizations are allowed to have only one representative speak on their behalf. The resolution says any outbursts, personal attacks or interruptions will be met with a warning and possible removal from the hearing.

“The meeting should be calm and orderly,” Davis said.

About 60 people attended the supervisors meeting Monday, where the three-person board unanimously moved a rezoning ordinance to the second reading. The ordinance affects the 150-plus-acre property by the southwest corner of Highway 17 and 320th Street.

If passed, the property zoning will change designation from agricultural to industrial.

Davis said the next step in the process will be a development agreement for the proposed plant, which would be located 5 miles south of Eagle Grove.

In the first phase, the $240 million project is expected to produce about 900 jobs. After much public discussion and feedback, the Mason City Council rejected Prestage May 3 with a 3-3 vote.

Before the meeting, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a group that also opposed the Mason City proposal, organized a demonstration on the courthouse lawn involving more than 20 people.