10/01/10 — Officials will open midway today

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Officials will open midway today

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 1, 2010 1:46 PM

DUDLEY -- The Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair is expected to open as scheduled this afternoon, fair manager Milton Ingram said this morning as crews were busy hauling sand and shavings to cover any wet spots lingering from the past several days of rain.

While skies were overcast this morning, the forecast for today is a slight chance of showers with clear skies tonight, and clear and mild through Sunday evening. The chance of rain returns Sunday night through Monday night.

Sitting in his office Thursday, Ingram didn't really need the weather radar image on his computer screen, all he had to do was look outside his window as the heavy rains that had fallen all day stretched into the evening of what would have been opening day for the fair.

The rain turned the new paved drives around the fairground into miniature rapids with the runoff leaving behind a layer of red clay on the blacktop and turning some areas on the grounds into mudholes.

On the dark and mostly deserted midway, cousins Jaron and Neal Boyce of Concord, who normally would have been operating three children's rides for Powers Great American Midways, instead sought shelter from the downpour under the relative protection offered by the New Hope United Methodist Church food booth -- the only thing open. They didn't have long, the booth was scheduled to close by 6 p.m.

"We started about two weeks ago, came, cleaned up and swept out, wiped down everything really well and checked out the appliances to make sure they still worked and checked all of the equipment," church member Lainey Jacobs said. "We came back last week and did a little bit more. We came out Tuesday and stocked the coolers and opened for business (Wednesday). We have had mostly just the carnies and the people who are setting up all of their exhibits."

Opening early is nothing new for the church volunteers.

"We always open on Wednesday for the carnival workers so they can have a hot meal," Mrs. Jacobs said. "We have homemade vegetable soup and pinto beans which none of the others have."

And although volunteers are trying to remain positive, they said the downpour put a little crimp into their fundraising plans.

"If we can get dried out and get some pretty nights, maybe we can make it like we usually do, but it hurts when it rains like this," Mrs. Jacobs said.

The Boyces, like their fellow employees of Powers Great American Midways, had spent the day hunkered down in their trailers and recreational vehicles parked around the fairgrounds. While sharing living space with two other people can get cramped, both men said they enjoy their work and were looking forward to tonight's delayed opening.

"It is exciting, something new," said Jaron Boyce who has been with the company for only three weeks. "We have been sitting in. Sometimes we sit at the bunkhouse and watch the rain or sit under the tent and try to find a good time and try to beat the rain.

"It is a new experience for me. Sometimes it gets a little boring, but most of the time it's exciting and you meet new people. Hopefully we can get some people to come out and enjoy the rides and get rid of this mud. Come to the fair and have a good time."

Ingram is hoping for the same thing.

"We may have little spots out there that are wet, but we have a lot of sand that we can haul and a lot of shavings we can put down in the wet spots."

New paved paths will help, he added.

But getting people to the fair is not the only problem Ingram must deal with because of the rain. Several fair competitions had to be canceled because of school delays.

"There were two contests, the math contest and the drafting competition, and I think we are going to be able to reschedule that to Tuesday. We are going to pay the premiums and give them the ribbons and they are going to have the math competition as soon as they can schedule it out at Wayne Community College."

Ingram is hopeful the predicted cooler weather will get the people into the spirit of the fair.

"The most encouraging thing to me is that even with this terrible weather we had yesterday and today, I really believe we have got more exhibits in our red building where we have our individual exhibits than we had last year," he said. "The people came, I can't believe how they came and responded. That building is just full of individual exhibits."

Ingram said he is also excited about the commercial and educational booths in the "white building."

"We have gotten away from the static displays with the schools and starting tomorrow at 4 or 5 o'clock the kids will be manning all of the different categories," he said. "They will have students manning them throughout the week so customers who come to the fair can interact with these kids and see what they are doing in their program. This is a national trend with fairs away from the static displays to the interactive ones. This day and time people want to be entertained.

"The 4-H Clubs in the county have a display in there to allow the little children to pretend to dig up an Irish potato, harvest a carrot, milk a cow, gather some eggs and pick apples and shell some corn. When they go through this process we are going to put a little sticker on them that says, 'I farmed at the Fair.' It gives the little kids a feel of what agriculture is about."

Ingram said it was too early to say how the rain could affect the fair's success.

"If we get nine days of good weather, we are going to make it up because normally on the first day we probably don't even collect enough revenue at our gates and with the carnival to pay our expenses anyway," he said. "By being closed, I have no security people here. I have no ticket takers. I don't have any ticket sellers. I have let my staff, most of them, go home so we have a skeleton crew out here.

"We are not really losing that much today. The few people who would have come today will come tomorrow, Saturday or one day next week I think. We have our fingers crossed this will not be a negative experience and our attendance will be as good has it has been. I feel like, if we don't have another monsoon, we are going to be good to go."

That sentiment is shared by Mar Mac Fire Chief Bill Harrell who was busy finishing up stocking the department's booth.

"One day isn't going to make a whole lot of difference," he said. "A good Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but they are talking that it might rain next week. If it does, then that is going to hurt, but this one day isn't going to make a whole, whole lot of difference. We haven't ever done but so good on the opening day anyway. It isn't a really booming day for some reason."

Harrell was expecting to be back at the booth about 7 a.m. this morning.

"We do all right," Harrell said. "I tell them it is more of a tradition than making money sometime. We do all right, but we could make more doing other things because it takes so much labor. It takes about 9 or 10 in the back, 10 to 12 up front. If you add in all of the time, you aren't making much but it's fun out here the first four or five days. The last three or four days it gets tough."