Iosco County Fair Goes Big For 75th Year

There are some who say that less is more. The Crawford County Fair Board seems to disagree as their year’s iteration of the largest agricultural fair east of the Mississippi River will return this weekend with more rides, more free shows and more competitors in the many agricultural contests that run throughout the week-long event.

The one place where the fair has become smaller is its price. Entry into the Crawford County Fair will now cost $5. This brings the cost back down to the levels it had from the 1990s up through 2012, when it was raised to $8.

According to Fair Board President William “Bill” Winters, the lowered price was done in the hopes of drawing even more people to attend the fair.

Other than that, however, people attending the 2019 Crawford County Fair can expect to see plenty of new features and attractions.

“We wanted to give the people a good fair for their $5 to come through the gate,” said George Deshner, second vice president of the fair board.

One of the bigger expansions for 2019 is the addition of two more free ground shows to the fair’s lineup. Returning from last year will be The Rhinestone Roper Show, a stunt show featuring trick roping and knife throwing, while the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs and The Ninja Experience are newcomers to the fair.

Styled after shows such as “Ninja Warrior,” The Ninja Experience is a stage production where parkour athletes will test their skills trying to cross obstacle courses. Utilizing strength and dexterity, competitors will climb up walls, hang high in the air and balance across thin platforms.

“It’s a nice, big, impressive setup they have, so they’ll easily be able to spot it,” Deshner said of the stage for The Ninja Experience.

Those looking to test their own skills will be able to get involved. The Ninja Experience features audience participation, with members of the public able to try out some of the less dangerous obstacles and try to break wooden boards.

The Swifty Swine races, meanwhile, will see groups of baby piglets racing around a track in the quest for an Oreo cookie treat. According to the Crawford County Fair’s website, these pigs race “at a blazing 15 mph.”

Deshner said he’s seen Swifty Swine races at other agricultural fairs, and noticed they tended to be a major draw for several people. As such, the fair board made the decision to bring the event to the Crawford County Fair.

“Kids can cheer for their favorite pig and everything,” Deshner said.

Both the Swifty Swine races and The Ninja Experience will be set up in the midway up from gate three, behind the vendors. Longtime Crawford County Fair attendees might notice this is the same area where the rides are usually set up. That’s because the fair rides have been moved to allow even more attractions to be brought in.

Powers & Thomas Midway Entertainment, who made their Crawford County Fair debut last year, will return in 2019 with even more rides. Deshner said that the traditional amusement ride area was too small to fit all of the company’s midway features.

“We didn’t have the advantage of having them,” he said.

The amusement ride area will now be moved to near gate one, beside the home show building. This move gives added space, and Deshner estimated that Powers & Thomas will be able to bring around 90% of the company’s rides.

The kids’ rides will remain in the same location they were last year, near gate three.

One of the largest parts of the Crawford County Fair are the many agricultural competitions. Ranging from cows, pigs, horses, vegetables, fruit and more, contests are taking place almost constantly throughout the fair. In fact, Deshner said that when the state set the theme for county fairs this year as “Fairs Feature Agriculture,” the Crawford County Fair Board felt they already had that topic covered.

However, competition will be even harder this year as the fair has seen a large spike in the number of those competing. According to Deshner, the fair received roughly 1,000 more exhibitor entries this year than last, bringing the total up to 13,364. He said this increase is across the board, affecting all of the contest categories.

“It’s just kind of all around,” Deshner said. “I don’t think you can pinpoint any one department that outshined all the others.”

Winters guessed that the large increase has something to do with the fair’s new online registration tool, which was unveiled last year. While many of those trying to enter in 2018 were left confused by the new system, according to Winters, they’ve since adjusted and the fair has been able to reach more people than before.

The embrace of new technology and expansion of features is one of the things that Deshner believes has kept the Crawford County Fair going year after year.

“I think we’ve grown with the times,” he said. “We’ve tried to offer variety to appeal to all segments of the population.”

While the 2019 fair will see many new features, the members of the Fair Board are currently thinking of how they’ll outdo themselves next year. The year 2020 will be the 75th Crawford County Fair, a major milestone in the event’s history.

“Oh yes, the 75th committee are already working on things,” Deshner said.

While not too much can be revealed as of yet, Deshner did confirm that the 2020 Crawford County Fair will feature a parade to kick things off. But first, the 2019 fair has to have its moment to shine.

The Crawford County Fair begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 24. Gates open at 8 a.m. daily, while rides will open from at 1 p.m. on Friday, both Saturdays and Sunday, and 2 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. The fair closes each day at 11 p.m.

Ray can be reached, by email, at sray@titusvilleherald.com.

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