There is such a thing as a free lunch - and free admission - to the Erie County Fair for people at least 60 years old.
The fair, which opens in Sandusky today, will recognize older people Friday with a chicken dinner and a senior talent show with a $100 cash prize as well as other singers, dancers, and a parade of 4-H animals.
The senior lunch, now in its seventh year at the Erie County Fair, typically feeds 500 people, although it is advertised for the first 400 comers and the fair only sets up 400 chairs. But people eat in shifts and it is open to all seniors, Serving Our Seniors Director Sue Daugherty said.
After one attempt to limit the event to Erie County residents, which she said resulted in pandemonium, the taxpayer-supported Serving Our Seniors group, which spends $2,000 on the meal, decided to serve meals to seniors until its food runs out.
The fair, which is expected to draw 25,000 people over its six-day run through Sunday, is to have miniature horses, llamas, and alpacas exhibited by 4-H members for what is thought to be the first time in the fair's 149 years.
A scrapbooking competition, new at the fair last year, is expected to draw exhibits from 53 youth club members this year, 4-H agent Angela Holmes said.
That's down from 60 scrapbooks last year, but it is still one of the most popular 4-H projects among the county's 591 club members.
The number of club members has fallen about 8 percent from about 640 last year, Ms. Holmes said.
The fair will also include the largest number of exhibits from adults in years.
Entries in the photography competition that is open to all ages are expected to be above 200, about four times the number of entries last year, fair board President Don Schaeffer said.
This is only the fourth year in recent times that the fair has had many competitions open to all ages; for years it was focused almost solely on youth, Mr. Schaeffer said.
The fair has 36 commercial booths, up from about 30 last year, as well as 22 food stands and 15 mechanical rides.
Ronald McDonald is to appear with former Olympic track and field contender Mark Croghan and a dog show from Illinois is to be offered every evening.
Sunday is typically the fair's biggest day, buoyed by a demolition derby of 70 cars.
Saturday, which features a demolition derby of 25 to 30 compact cars and demolition games, is another big day.
The fair is one of the few to offer "demolition soccer," played by demolition derby car drivers using their cars to maneuver a 5-feet high steel ball into a goal.
This year there will be more seats for those attractions. The fair board added bleachers from Danbury High School that are to seat 700 to the grandstand area, increasing its seating to 5,500.
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