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152nd Shelby County Fair: Weather dampens opening

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Rain nearly washes out first 2 nights

By Lisa King

The weather may not have rained on any parades in Shelby County this week, but the Shelby County Fair was high on Mother Nature’s priority list for showings of wrath.

Thunderstorms darkened the skies, unleashing downpours Monday and Tuesday, the first two nights the fair opened, and scattered showers threatened on Wednesday night.

“The midway’s been hardest hit, because even by Tuesday afternoon, bracelet day, we didn’t have very many,” said Fair Board Chair Ray Tucker. “Today [Thursday] is bracelet day again, so we’ll see what happens today.”

Added to that is the fact that this year’s fair will last a considerably shorter time than in 2013.

“Last year, we opened up on a Thursday, were closed Sunday, and lasted until the following Saturday, so we’re four days shorter, for the midway,” Tucker said.

Deserted midways weren’t the fair’s only problem this year; Floral Hall was closed the first part of the day Wednesday to allow for cleanup after water flooded the building. No 4-H or FFA exhibits were damaged, but there were less of those than last year, mainly vegetables and other items that weren’t available because the fair was held earlier this year.

“We’re about thirty entries down from last year, but when you look at the fair time, compared to [when] it was and compared to where it will be next year, this is the only year it’s going to be this early. Most ag-related stuff is down,” Tucker said.

Regina Browning, county extension agent for 4-H youth, said entries were down slightly in all livestock shows except dairy, but it wasn’t because of the rain, instead it was the timing.

“Our overall numbers are down, probably because we’re earlier,” she said, adding that state FFA and 4-H conventions are being held this week, and kids who would normally come to the fair to show their animals were attending those.

“We aren’t terribly low, but our numbers are down, except for dairy, but we still have the open dairy tomorrow and the beef show is Saturday,” she said.

But all was not doom and gloom; the fair’s faithful followers still submitted exhibits of flowers, baked goods, quilts, crafts and many other items, and some indoor events had good crowds.

“Tuesday night, we had a wrestling group come in, and we actually had about seventy people there for it; and I think if the weather had been better, we would have had more,” Tucker said. “They did a real nice job, and last night [Wednesday] was gospel night and we had a pretty decent night for that.”

Raynelle Marston, a fair board member who is in charge of the senior citizens event in Floral Hall Thursday, said she expected a good crowd.

“My big thing is senior day; it’s a really special day for me,” she said. “They [seniors] will be coming from all the assisted living centers and nursing homes, and we are expecting to have the bell ringers from the Masonic Home again.”

Kay Krug with the Masonic Home said the bell ringer’s choir had a great time performing for a crowd of about 100.

“It was wonderful,” she said.

Tucker said he wouldn’t worry so much about how the week started out if the weekend makes up for it.

“It’s so hard to get people to come out the first part of the week – we understand that – so the weather has had an effect on us, but we really won’t know how much until when it’s over this weekend,” he said.

“From an attendance standpoint, it’s hurt us quite a bit. But with the rain we’ve had, nobody’s wanting to get out. So we’re hoping that people will get out tonight [Thursday] and Friday and Saturday night. There’s a twenty to thirty percent chance [of rain] Friday, but by Saturday, there’s no chance. We look forward to J.D. Shelburne coming Saturday night, and hopefully, he’ll pack the house.”

Shelburne performs at 9 p.m.

Tucker said the fair schedule was altered this year because the 10-day fair was not working out very well. However, he said, “From here on out, we’ll open up with the horse show, and then Monday we’ll be starting with the carnival.”

Marston echoed Tucker’s hopes for a good turnout and great weather this weekend.

“Everybody is hoping the sun will come out and everything will start booming, and we’ll have a real successful fair,” she said.