Darien Arthur, 10, of Swanton gives his pony Gaby a good-luck kiss before they enter the ring for competition at the fair.
With the 149th Lucas County Fair under way, organizers hope to dodge the heat and humidity that kept thousands of anticipated fairgoers at home last year.
After the fairgrounds were drenched by 4 1/2 inches of rain last summer, relentless heat created a jungle-like climate that Dave Pruss, president of the Lucas County Fair Board, blamed for weak attendance - just 30,000 of 50,000 expected visitors showed up.
"The weather put the damper on us," he said. "Unfortunately, we're at Mother Nature's mercy."
The weather for this year's fair could go either way. The National Weather Service yesterday was predicting a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms tomorrow and again Saturday and Sunday. Highs are expected to be in the mid to upper 80s. The fair runs through Sunday.
If the weather remains decent, Mr. Pruss said he is optimistic that the fair can reach the 50,000-visitor mark, even with an increased admission fee. Admission has returned to $8 a person, after dipping $2 last year in an effort to boost attendance.
The fair becomes a hip thing for this chicken competitor as it is carried by its owner to the scales to be weighed.
The price increase was needed this year to offset the fair's rising utility expenses, Mr. Pruss said.
Visitors will also notice a change in location for this year's concerts. To generate more business, the grandstand was moved from Ned Skeldon Stadium, former home of the Toledo Mud Hens, to a section of the fairgrounds closer to the amusement and concessions Midway.
"Before, they [concert audiences] used to leave the stadium and go right out to their cars," Mr. Pruss said.
Music acts this year include the Motown groups The Contours and the Marvelettes, who are to perform at 8 p.m. Friday. Country music singer Danielle Peck takes the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets for both concerts are $5.
After an exercise jaunt around the fairgrounds, Loren Gehrke, 16, of Whitehouse leads her horse Scotch back to the barn.
The fair kicked off yesterday evening with a parade and opening ceremony. Earlier in the day, concessionaires of corn dogs, fried dough, sugary lemonade, and other festival goodies were busy setting up their trailers throughout the fairgrounds.
Among the vendors was Cindy Zaker, 50, who said her family has been selling waffles, funnel cakes, french fries, and other concessions from a stand at the county fair since the 1930s.
In the livestock barn, sheep baaed, pigs grunted, and well-fed rabbits twitched their noses. Ryan Bellner, 15, of Whitehouse watched over a pair of pigs, each weighing nearly 250 pounds, that he raised and plans to show in competition tomorrow.
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