Did the fair board get uppity and start looking down its collective noses towards a particular longtime vendor because its food trailer doesn’t meet the aesthetics, that is to say it isn’t fancy enough for the current regime?

I’m speaking of the buzz around Imlay City and again what I heard at Attica Days in support of the Hernandez family. They’ve been serving up delicious Mexican food for decades at what is now called the Eastern Michigan State Fair in Imlay City.

The family was not offered a contract this year after more than 30 continuous years. Word is, that even after adding new signage at a hefty cost, it wasn’t enough to please the board.

That family has a huge following and not because of the trailer, but the food. They earned the choice money spot next to the east entrance/exit of the grandstand.

I’ve thanked Fair Manager Ian Kempf to his face for helping make the fair what it is today. I will apologize to his face if the town talk is inaccurate and if I’ve wrongly offended the board.

I tried to find a list of board members online and could not but I did read the mission statement of how much it cares about the people and the community.

If the focus of the board is pulling in piles of cash and losing sight of tradition and the little guy, I remind them of something in The Good Book and I’m paraphrasing, “Where your treasure is, your heart is also.”

—Bernie Hillman, Imlay Township


Editor’s note: The following response was offered by Fair Manager Ian Kempf:

Over the last many years, the Lapeer County Agricultural Society and Fair Board has reinvested everything earned into the fairgrounds, the buildings, infrastructure, etc., as is our task, to bring back to life, continually maintain and improve, and make it something Lapeer County can be proud of.

Three years ago in 2019 the Eastern Michigan State Fair Board asked our 24 concessionaires to begin making some improvements to their concession wagons as well, in the areas of food safety, electrical, fire safety, lighting, overall maintenance and overall appearance. The program was designed to work together with our concessionaires over a 3-year period, giving everyone a very liberal time period to initiate and make some changes. Similar to the ongoing improvements being made to the fairgrounds, these changes would ensure our fairgoers a safe and enjoyable fair food experience.

All 24 concessionaires were extended fair contracts that included this 3-year program. All 24 concessionaires profited in the 2019 & 2021 fairs with the knowledge that their participation included completed improvements by the 2022 fair. However, in 2022, out of the 24 food vendors all but one chose to participate and complete the program. Twenty-three chose to work hand in hand with the Fair Board recognizing the need for ongoing improvement in order to meet the highest level of concession standards.

Because all concessionaires are independent contractors, their business decisions are just that, their decisions. So as such, the Eastern Michigan State Fair Board respects their decision not to participate; it is not our place to comment on their business decisions.

The Eastern Michigan State Fair, through hard work, sound business practices and the support of the community has re-invested millions of dollars into the fairgrounds. In service to our community, we ask that our business partners do the same and reinvest in their businesses; we appreciate that this has been very well-received.

All vendors, groups, businesses and associations are equally important and valuable to the success of the fair. We will all continue to work together to bring a safe and successful fair and fairgrounds to the citizens of Lapeer County.