OWATONNA — It has been two years since the pyrotechnics and crowd-pleasing on-stage antics of the 1980s cover band that is Hairball has graced the grandstand of the Steele County Fairgrounds. According to Fair Manager Scott Kozelka, the people have sorely missed them.
“It is probably one of the most frequent questions we get,” Kozelka stated. “When is Hairball coming back?”
This week, the Steele County Free Fair was happy to announce that the wait is over. Hairball will be returning to their usual slot on Thursday night during the 2020 fair.
And it’s going to rock.
Hairball has not been a part of the local fair since 2017, after a hiccup in scheduling occurred where the band was already booked elsewhere on the Thursday of the 2018 fair. After some deliberation among themselves, the fair board members decided to change things up on the Grandstand for a couple of years to keep things fresh and explore other options.
But Kozelka stated that the absence of the band that brought a lot of flare with the wide array of rock covers was hard not to notice, and 2020 turned out to be the perfect year to bring them back. Not only will Hairball’s performance at the 2020 SCFF be held on Aug. 20, but it will also be part of the group’s 20-year anniversary tour.
“And of course we will have them start at 20:00 – so 8 o’clock,” Kozelka laughed. “It’s going to be awesome with everything revolving around it.”
Hairball has a long history with the fair in Owatonna, starting years ago as one of the bands featured inside the beer garden. Kozelka stated that he still remembers them pulling in that first year with their small U-Haul truck with their limited equipment inside — a far cry from the tour bus that now follows them around country.
“They’re just a part of our fair,” Kozelka said, reminiscing about the years that Hairball helped wow the late night crowd on the fairgrounds. “They enjoy coming here and they’re a real show band that anyone from younger children to older adults can truly enjoy.”
As exciting as it is to have a fan-favorite return to the Grandstand, Kozelka said that it just as exciting that they will be a part of something the SCFF has never had before: three consecutive nights of music on the fair’s largest stage.
The final details are still being ironed out, but on Wednesday of the fair newcomer Jason Pritchett will be gracing the Grandstand. After hearing him perform at the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs Convention, the SCFF decided to sign the country singer who was a top five finalist on the NBC reality competition America’s Got Talent during season two in 2007. Since his time on the show, has had four radio songs place in the top 40 charts.
Adding to the three-concert, three-night lineup, Chris Hawkey will be returning for the second time to the SCFF, performing in the Grandstand on Friday. The popular sing/songwriter and Minnesota celebrity sings a variety of country, rock, and popular music and brought music back to the fair in 2019 with his Thursday Grandstand performance. Kozelka said that the musician, who is also the producer for the KFAN Powertrip Morning Show and host on the Vikings Entertainment Network, made it pretty clear to the fair crew that he would be happy to return to Owatonna.
“I was listening to his show the day after the concert and he said that it was in his top five shows for the summer,” Kozelka said. “People had a good response to him so we’re happy to bring him back and see what he can do with a Friday night slot.”
Though the three nights of musical acts in the Grandstand is a first for the SCFF — Hawkey was one of two consecutive nights of music in 2019, followed by country singer Chris Kroeze — the staff displays both confidence and excitement to see how this new lineup will play out come August.
“We’re all about trying different things and changing things up,” Kozelka said, asserting the importance of staying “fresh” for their fairgoers. “All three of these bands are ones that every age can enjoy, and they bring a little mix of everything. Like everything else we do at the fair, there will be something for everybody.”
Kozelka said that the public should be watching the fair’s variety of social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as their website for special ticket promos beginning in March.
Other confirmed Grandstand performances include the rodeo on Saturday and the demo derby on Sunday. Tuesday night is currently the only Grandstand night that has yet to be secured, though Kozelka stated that he expects that to be locked in by early next week.
The 2020 Steele County Free Fair is scheduled for Aug. 18-23.