The Flying Pages show off their skills during performance at the Eastern Michigan State Fair.

Week goes off without a hitch as visitors flock to Imlay City

IMLAY CITY — Eastern Michigan State Fair Manager Ian Kempf said the success of the 2019 fair can best be measured by the absence of problems and presence of fun being had by those in attendance.
Kempf said the week’s (July 23-27) attendance at the gate was down slightly —some 1.7%—from last year’s record-setting numbers.
He was nevertheless “very pleased” with the outcome of yet another successful event for Lapeer County families.
“My overall impression of this year’s fair is that everything went wonderfully and without major incident,” said Kempf. “It is always our goal to send everyone home happy and safely.”
Kempf said he heard a number of positive comments from fair visitors about the good condition and openness of the grounds, and its improved accessibility resulting from added walkways.
“When we tore down the old fair office, it really opened up a lot of area for seating and walking,” he said. “We got a lot of positive feedback about that.”
Kempf said the newly constructed fair office is also being well-received by
both visitors and fair staff who like the spaciousness and amenities provided by the new building.
“The new building is more convenient for fair visitors and more efficient for our staff,” Kempf said. “The roominess of the building makes it comfortable and there’s more space for meetings and for staff to take lunch breaks.”
Kempf said the “special days” for local veterans, residents with special needs and foster families remain popular and are much appreciated by the public.
“I want to thank the Imlay City Rotary Club for sponsoring our Foster Family Appreciation Day,” he said. “It went over great.” Kempf said he received
a phone call at around 10 p.m. that evening from a woman who has been a foster parent for 45 years.
“She wanted to let the Rotary Club and the Fair Board know how much she
and her foster children enjoyed their time at the fair, “ he said. “She was in tears by the end of the conversation.”
Another highlight of the 2019 Fair came on Friday evening in the form of a wedding proposal.
Just prior to the finals of the Bump-N-Run, Imlay
City Firefighter Ben Horton got down on one knee to ask Fair staff member Rachel Zender for her hand in marriage—to which she replied, “Yes.”
Helping stage Horton’s surprise proposal was Kempf, who was joined for the occasion by about 10 fair workers and other onlookers. Big fun for little kids Like many others who walk through the gates at the Eastern Michigan State Fair, the Fair is a family tradition for Jessica Riley of Columbiaville.
“I’ve come to the fair every year since I was five years old. My mom took me, then it was my sister and now I take them every year,” Jessica said, referring to her three sons-Tyler, Matthew and Benjamin.
One of her favorite and more recent memories is riding the “Zipper” with her oldest son, Tyler.
Spending time at the fair is also a tradition for 4-H member Brianna Rice of Lapeer.
A member of the Lucky Hoppers club, Brianna has been exhibiting her rabbit J.B. (short for Jelly Bean) for the past four years.
“I look forward to the fair every year,” said Brianna. “Some of my closest friends are in 4-H.”
In contrast, fellow Lucky Hoppers club members, Celina and Nico Masella of Imlay City, were first-time fair exhibitors.
The siblings said they enjoyed meeting new people and learning more about rabbits and showing them.
Nico said he’s thinking about raising and showing fryer pen rabbits for the 2020 fair and Celina is considering exhibiting a new breed for next year’s fair projects in addition to the Silver Fox rabbits they entered in 2019.
Nico said they decided to start their rabbit raising with the Silver Fox because of its uniqueness.
“The Silver Fox is very rare and some types almost went extinct,” he said.
Realizing that the Eastern Michigan State Fair is a tradition for people of all ages, Kempf said he and his staff take great pride in not only preparing for the fair, but cleaning up the fairgrounds when it’s over.
“Right now,” he said, “our fair staff is out looking for and cleaning up any residual trash or garbage that may have been left laying around.
“Of course, we are very appreciative to everyone who helps out and thanks to all those who attended the fair this year,” Kempf continued. “Now our job is to make the fairgrounds look like clean and like nothing ever happened here.”
For more photos of the week’s events, turn to page 17.
Editor’s note: Assistant Editor Maria Brown contributed to this story.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.