By JULIE E. GREENE
7:19 PM EDT, July 10, 2011
Amusement rides are returning this year to the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair, which also is adding a day of activities.
The success of additional activities and events at last year’s fair, including concerts, wood carving, a grilling contest, dog and pig races, and cheese carving contests, means they are returning this year, organizers said.
The fair’s starting and ending days have changed this year, beginning and ending on Saturdays, making it easier to contract an amusement company and, hopefully, to draw more entries for the various contests, said Daphne Sigler, president of the Washington County Agricultural Organization, and Terrie Shank, a past fair board member who is helping with this year’s fair.
“I really hope that it will bring in people that have been desiring rides,” Sigler said.
Fair officials are still working to overcome the stigma of what the fair used to be, when it was mostly animal exhibits and track events with no amusement rides.
“It’s not like what it used to be. (We’re) working diligently to keep it new and keep it interesting,” she said.
Fair officials hosted a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce networking event at the fairgrounds in April so local business people could learn about opportunities, such as sponsorships, to get their names out in the community, Sigler said.
Sigler said 12,950 people came through the fair’s gate last year, not including young children who were admitted for free. She estimates total attendance at 14,000 to 15,000, and is hoping it will grow to 17,000 to 18,000 this year.
Last year’s fair was profitable, despite the heat, Sigler said. She would not disclose detailed financial information.
S&S Amusements Inc., which is new to the fair, signed a three-year deal to provide rides at the annual event, Sigler said. Rides will be provided from July 25 to 30, according to the fair book.
Sigler said she expects about 10 to 12 rides. The company also will provide games and concessions.
“We will bring a variety of kiddie rides like Tweety Bounce, Little Merry Go Round, Train, major rides like the Tilt AWhirl, Scooter, Eli Ferris Wheel, and spectaculars like the Zipper, Musik Express, etc. Like I said there are no guarantees as breakdowns are always a possibility,” wrote Stephanie Williams, office manager for S&S Amusements in an email to The Herald-Mail. S&S is based in based near Scranton, Pa.
Last year’s fair started on a Friday and ended the following Thursday. This year’s fair, from July 23 to 30, will begin and end on Saturdays, adding a day to the fair at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center south of Hagerstown.
After introducing amusement rides in 2008, the fair did not have rides last year after a company that was lined up to provide the rides backed out in the spring.
Amusement ride firms usually operate Monday through Saturday, and that schedule conflicted with the local fair’s dates. Sigler said last year she was hoping the fair board would change the fair schedule to align with the schedules of amusement ride companies and make it easier for people to submit entries such as baked goods and craft items.
With the schedule change, open-class home arts entries are due in Friday evening and Saturday morning rather than on Thursday, so it should be easier for working people to enter, Shank said.
The cake auction, which benefits the 4-H Club, has been moved from Friday to Saturday so fair officials are hoping for more entries and more bidders since people won’t have to rush home from work to get to the auction, Shank said.
There is a $2 daily admission fee with an extra $5 or $10 charge to track events. Children ages 8 and younger get in free. The Don Schwartz Memorial Farm Tractor Pull, at the track on July 25, will have free admission, Shank said.
New to the fair this year is a concert at the track, by country performer Sean Patrick McGraw and Hicktown on July 28, that requires paid admission and a second grilling contest that focuses on burgers.
Also new this year is a presentation by National Park Service officials about the Battle of Antietam’s effect on local agriculture.
There also will be concerts that will not cost extra, including Hagerstown band Fertile Soil, Hucklebuck, Ernie Bradley and the Grassy Ridge Band, and The Living Stones, a contemporary Christian music group, according to Shank and the fair’s program. These concerts and several other activities will be held in a 2,400-square-foot tent sponsored by Twigg Cycles, Sigler said.
Track events include two days of bull riding, a demolition derby, a horse pull, and truck and tractor pulls.
The traditional market animal sale will be the evening of July 28.
If you go...
What: Washington County Ag Expo & Fair
When: July 23 to 30
Where: Washington County Agricultural Education Center grounds, 7313 Sharpsburg Pike, south of Hagerstown
Cost: $2 admission; free for ages 8 and younger. There is an additional $5 or $10 charge for most events at the track. Amusement rides cost extra. One price for unlimited rides on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and the afternoon of Saturday, July 30.
Contact: For more information, call 301-432-2795 or go to www.agexpoandfair.org.
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