10/12/04 — Fair attendance was up, manager says

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Fair attendance was up, manager says

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on October 12, 2004 2:01 PM

A few power outages did not darken the spirits of fairgoers during this year's 10-day celebration of Wayne County's agricultural heritage.

Milton Ingram, who completed his 20th year as fair manager, said it was a very successful fair with paid attendance up about 6,000 from last year's 61,452 paid.

Several of the competitive areas, especially adult photography, had more people competing this year.

A transformer blew out in the permanent concession area on Tuesday and Saturday night. For several hours, they had to use fire trucks to provide light in that area. Ingram thanks Progress Energy because it responded immediately to install a new transformer with more power. That should solve the problem for next year, he said.

"We did the best we could to deal with it," said Ingram.

He and others are evaluating the fair's electrical needs and may have to rearrange some of the things using the electricity, like concessions, to reduce the load on some of the other transformers.

There were several new attractions this year, which were all well-received. They were "Trouble the Magician;" "Doggies of the Wild West;" The UBU Band; the Keith King Bike Stunt Show; The Main Squeeze Band; Steve Pathel; and an illusion show by Taylor Michaels.

Children enjoyed "Wayneabelle" and "Fairlybelle," two cows the fair employees made to give them the experience of what it is like to milk a cow.

Two "Bargain Days" brought a good crowd in with $1 off gate admission for adults and children and $10 for unlimited rides.

Power's Great American Midway celebrated its 25th anniversary and was the main attraction for the sixth year at the fair. There were four new rides this year worth $1 million combined. They were "The Haunted Mansion," "Zero Gravity," "Starship" and "Scooter."

Ingram will go to the International Association of Fairs convention in December and the North Carolina-South Carolina fair convention in January, where they find new entertainment and find out if the fair won any state awards.

An adult and junior craft item will be on display at the N.C. State Fair, which begins Friday, in the Best of County Fair Show Exhibit. Those winning at the state level receive $1,000.

The Wayne fair committee will be figuring out what must be done with the electrical situation. Ingram said there are five transformers on the fairgrounds, and their usage will be analyzed and that information will be turned over to Progress Energy. The company will recommend if the transformers need to be upgraded and if so, paying for them will come first, said Ingram.

Any additional funds will be used for other improvements, like replacing some of the older fences.

About $30,000 was invested in this year's facilities, said Ingram. There was a new fence near U.S. 117 South; five more sets of bleachers; additional lighting in the hog barn and parking lots; and new entertainment.

Protecting children from potential accidents while on rides at the state's county fairs was the goal of a new program instituted this year by the state Department of Labor. Cherie Berry, labor commissioner, and department inspectors visited the fair on opening day to introduce the new fair safety program. She presented Ingram with a certificate of participation in the program.

Thousands of students in Wayne County received a bookmark from the Labor Department with safety tips about the rides. They were encouraged to have them signed by their parents. The children could bring the bookmarks to the middle of the fair's carnival and receive a free gift.

Ingram said all of the exhibitors, volunteers and staff "did a tremendous job trying to make sure everything fell in place."

Ingram and others will be cleaning up the 40-acre fairgrounds this week and then preparing for the Feast in the East, which is scheduled for Oct. 29-30. The Wayne County Livestock Development Association, which owns and operates the fair, is a major sponsor of the upcoming celebration of eastern North Carolina barbecue.