Fair attendance down, but organizers pleased

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 17, 2007

COURTLAND— A local event readers answering a poll in The Tidewater News called the most popular turned out to be better than fair this year.

Despite temperatures soaring above 100 degrees earlier in the week, the 27th annual Franklin-Southampton County Fair went off with few hitches.

&uot;Attendance was about 8,000 to 10,000 for the four days,&uot; said Sandra Heeren, president of the fair board. &uot;It was down just a touch compared to last year, but we are attributing that to the heat and storms&uot; during the afternoon before the gates opened

Board member Glenn Joyner said, &uot;Although sometimes we had storms around us, some people thought it was storming at the fairgrounds, too. We had some calls from areas like Gates County, checking to see if the fair was still on.&uot;

With an operating budget of a little more than $110,000, including ground improvements and entertainment, the event offered a variety of activities for the entire family for a full four days. Annually, a donation is contributed by a local charitable agency and from the county.

One difference fair-goers may have noticed this year was a reduced midway. Heeren said that although the midway wasn’t as large as it has been in the past, the board felt like it was &uot;extremely important&uot; to have something for the children.

&uot;We ran into some issues that were beyond our control, and we decided we’d rather have something small than have nothing at all,&uot; Heeren said. &uot;We were fortunate that (Tillage Amusements out of Gloucester) came on such short notice.&uot;

Joyner said, &uot;We look forward to having a larger midway next year.&uot;

One of the evening highlights has been the local and bigger-name bands. In the past, the established bands would be split over a two-night period.

&uot;Bringing in the local bands all on one night has really worked well for us,&uot; Heeren said. &uot;People really like to hear the locals.&uot;

She said, &uot;Chase Mitchell brought in a younger crowd while Rodney Atkins brought in the older crowd on Friday night.&uot;

All local bands were scheduled on Saturday night, which also drew many folks out for dinner and a concert at the fairgrounds.

&uot;Compared to some years, we had really calm crowds,&uot; said Heeren. &uot;We had no issues with rowdiness. Everyone behaved and had a good time.&uot;

Joyner also said that besides a small fender bender in the parking lot, there were no incidents to speak of, except on the hottest days.

&uot;We did have a couple of people who got a little overheated,&uot; Heeren said. &uot;They were treated on the fairgrounds in the safety building.&uot;

Local rescue squads volunteered and rotated duties during the event.

Heeren said new this year was a hospitality tent that was set up Thursday at the fair to thank sponsors.

&uot;We encouraged all of our sponsors to come out,&uot; she said. &uot;We served refreshments.&uot;

Also a fresh addition was the Veggie Art contest. That, along with the popular Scarecrow contest were well-attended, and according to 4-H Associate Extension Agent Erika Bonnett, the Veggie Art event will resume next year.

&uot;For the first year, there were a lot of kids participating in the Veggie Art contest, even with the storm that hit just before the competition,&uot; she said. &uot;We had about 20 children for that.

&uot;The Scarecrow contest had 11 entries, but some entered as a group. There were about 23 youth in all. I was very impressed with the kids’ creativity in both contests.&uot; LeeAnn Alexander, board member who was in charge of the commercial/educational exhibits and arts and crafts, said the building was full of displays.

&uot;[The heat] was terrible Wednesday, but we were blessed that the heat ended,&uot; she said.

&uot;We have been discussing the installation of a new cooling system with fans for next year that should drop the temperature at least 10 degrees,&uot; she said.

International Paper won first place in the commercial exhibits and the Chowan Basin Soil and Water District won the educational exhibit honor.

The Fair Board is planning more community events throughout the year before the next fair and is shooting for a bigger, better time in 2008. They do, however, welcome any suggestions.

&uot;We take what people say seriously,&uot; said Heeren. &uot;If there was a problem, we’d like to hear about it. If there is something you’d like to see at the fair, we’d like to hear that, too.&uot;

Joyner said, &uot;It is for everyone to enjoy.&uot;

Anyone with suggestions may contact Heeren at 569-6155, or Joyner at 569-8745.