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Published: Wednesday, 7/27/2005

Monroe County: Fair slated to kick off this weekend - with changes

MONROE - Maybe having twice beaten cancer gives a guy a tremendously optimistic outlook on life.

It seems to have worked wonders for Monroe County Fair executive director Warren Siebarth, who says that Michigan's moribund economy might just be a good thing for attendance at this year's 58th annual Monroe County Fair that starts Sunday.

"With the economy and the price of gas, I think people are sticking close to home and will be spending their money locally," Mr. Siebarth said last week as he and his staff prepared the fairgrounds for the annual mid-summer social highlight, which kicks off this weekend. "I think we're going to have a very good fair this year."

That would be a very good thing, because the fair's annual attendance has been stuck between 140,000 and 150,000 for the last decade, Mr. Siebarth said. Paid fair attendance has also continued to hover around 100,000, but the fair continues to make money.

"If we weren't making money, we'd be in bad shape. But with all our off-season things, we're able to keep making improvements," Mr. Siebarth said. The fairgrounds has more than 20 "nonfair" events it now hosts throughout the year.

Unlike previous years, when the Monroe County Fair Association has dumped truckloads of money into large improvements at the fairgrounds, this year's upgrades will probably go largely unnoticed, Mr. Siebarth said.

The association did put about $50,000 in new paved areas inside the grounds, and made the steer barn more accessible to those in wheelchairs or pushing strollers. They also did some electrical system improvements across the grounds, Mr. Siebarth said.

But the biggest change for yearly fairgoers this year isn't on the grounds so much as it is on the entertainment bill.

Country music superstar Randy Travis replaces Montgomery Gentry as the headlining act for Monday night's country music show, with popular Josh Gracin serving as the bottom half of the bill. Ticket sales have been brisk for the single performance, but still should be available at the gate the evening of the show. Tickets are $40, $30, and $20. For more information on the fair, visit monroecountyfair.com



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