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A few suggestions for ‘tried-and-true’ fair

If you went to the Harrison County Fair last week looking for something new, you may not have found it.
Yes, some of the booths in the Merchant’s Building were new, such as the one by Woolpert that demonstrated how county residents can access their tax information online — in six easy steps! (It was nice to have the Merchant’s Building full after the lean one last year.)
And the grandstand entertainment last Wednesday night — Reved Up Band and Gina Emerson and The Wild Horses — made its first appearance at the state’s oldest continuous county fair.
A poll about what improvements, if any, people would like to see at the county fair brought about as many responses as people queried.
One man — who was at the 4-H Livestock Auction Friday night to purchase some beef and whose children have been out of 4-H about seven years — said the fair has made great strides the past several years. He specifically cited the swine barn’s facelift a couple of years ago.
Another man, whose youngest child finished 4-H last summer, would like to see the Harrison County Agriculture Society re-address the gate admission fee, implemented a few years ago, which includes parking, rides and general grandstand seating. He thinks the fee is unfair to 4-H families and others who want to go to view exhibits but aren’t interested in anything else. (Gate admission isn’t charged until noon on most days and as late as 4 p.m. on others.)
Then there’s the grandstand entertainment. If you’re not into watching guys crash old cars into each other or tractor and truck drivers “out pull” each other, well, there’s only three nights you might want to load your family into the car and head to the fairgrounds: one is opening night for the parade and queen contest, and the other two are traditionally mid-week musical entertainment.
Darrell Voelker, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County, has worked about four years in the fair office. Planning the county fair is a gamble, he said, unless you stick with tried-and-true events like the Demo Derby, Tractor Pull and “extreme shows.” (Thank goodness we’re not into “reality shows” yet.) But Mother Nature can play havoc with attendance and send the fair board to the bank empty-handed following sudden rainstorms.
So, back to possible improvements, especially those made to the buildings. The 4-Hers have been working hard to get a new show barn/exhibit hall. Such a building, partially air-conditioned, would be a welcome addition and provide a place for the general public to rent during the other 51 weeks of the year.
But wouldn’t it be nice if that facility, or another one, was large enough to include indoor entertainment? The Agricultural Society could learn from the old Harrison County Popcorn Festival about bringing in some well-known entertainers who could perform in an air-conditioned venue without worrying about the heat or thunderstorms. It might take some sponsorship from outside groups, but it is possible.
Regarding visual improvements, when was the last time the rails around the race trace were repaired and painted?
About admission: The one-price fee is the simplest solution, but if it’s keeping people away, why not change it? One option would be to create a fee scale: A buck or two would get you a parking spot and admission to the fairgrounds, where you could view the exhibits, check out the merchants’ booths, and visit friends and neighbors. Throw in a couple more George Washingtons and you get general seating in the grandstand for the show that night. A higher fee allows the payee unlimited number of rides in the Midway. And the premium package includes everything!
Color-coded bracelets would make it easy to identify who’s paid for what. And families could go to the fair for the evening and everyone could do what they wanted.
As we wait for the 144th consecutive annual fair next summer, we’d like to thank the Agricultural Society members and all their volunteers for another fair. If you have problems with the fair, offer concrete suggestions for improvements, not just criticism.
Or better yet, volunteer to help and give new blood to the group.

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