DUDLEY — The Wayne County Fairgrounds exhibit halls, silent for almost two years now, will come to life again Saturday morning as exhibitors bring in their items during the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair’s annual early-bird registration.

It will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on the fairgrounds located on U.S. 117 South near its intersection with U.S. 13.

The 72nd annual Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair will run Sept. 30 through Oct. 9.

“We’re excited — there is a lot of excitement about it, about the fair coming back this year, you know, after missing last year (because of the COVID-19 pandemic),” said Eddie Pitzer, fair manager. “There are a lot of things that have to be done when you shut down for a year, just to get prepared.

“So, buildings being shut up for that amount of time and (we’re) getting them open back up and getting things cleaned up and ready to go.”

Volunteer directors will be on hand Saturday to take in all exhibit items except for animals, prepared foods, flowers, horticulture and field crops, said Sandra Head, fair exhibitor coordinator.

Those types of exhibits will be entered during regular registration that will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29, and from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, she said.

Adult exhibitors will enter their items in the main exhibit building — the big red building that is located parallel to U.S. 117 South.

Youths will enter their exhibits in the Youth Barn located between the large white building and the Horse and Livestock Barn.

Youths and adults can register online, too.

The deadline is 5 p.m. today, and the form is available at waynefair.com/pre-registration-form.

Participants who register online will be mailed an exhibitor number enabling them to bypass the registration table and instead go straight to the department where their exhibit will be, Head said.

Early-bird and online registrations help speed up the process and also provide an idea of what to expect, Pitzer said.

“We do early-bird registration, and I want to make sure that folks understand that means exhibit entry,” Head said. “When they register, they’re bringing their exhibits and that starts at 9 a.m on Saturday, Sept. 25, and we’ll be here till 12 noon on Saturday.”

The early-bird registration has been a successful and popular addition to the fair since it provides an extra opportunity for folks to bring exhibits who might find it a little difficult to come midweek, Pitzer said.

More and more people are taking advantage of the early-bird registration, Head said.

“So each year more and more folks have come in and especially those folks who either work or have children that are involved in after-school activities that just find it difficult to come after, you know, late Wednesday afternoon and evening,” Head said. “So we’ve seen an uptick in the amount of people that bring their items.”

Pitzer encourages use of the online and early-bird registration.

All of the exhibit judging will be done Thursday morning, Sept. 30, before the fair opens.

The judges, hopefully, will get started by noon that day and the ribbons will be in place by the time the fair opens at 4 p.m., Pitzer said.

“We are going to continue to do our special premium and contest for our first-timers,” Head said. “We started that three or four years ago. Those folks who have never entered in the fair, participated in the fair, we choose a winner in each category in the adult division.”

As such, a person can actually win a first-place blue ribbon and then be the first-time winner in that category, she said.

Several first-time participants have won best of show, too, she said.

“So, they took home several premiums,” Head said. “So we want to encourage people to be that first-timer this year.

“It can be a little bit overwhelming for the first-timer, but there will be lots of folks here on hand to help guide them and get them in the right place and walk them through the process.”

One rule has changed this year.

Typically the items entered must have been completed since the last fair.

However, since the 2020 fair was canceled because of the pandemic, items that have been done since 2019 are being accepted.

“We’ve got all that creativity from 2019 until now that we’re looking forward to take it in,” Head said.

For more information, visit waynefair.com.

The nonprofit Wayne County Livestock Development Association owns and operates the fair.