EMSF 90 days away; plans and fine-tuning continue


IMLAY CITY — Don’t look now, but the Eastern Michigan State Fair is about 90 days away from taking over the fairgrounds property along S. Cedar Street in Imlay City.

But before the 4-H projects move in, before the bright lights of the Arnold Amusement midway lights up the sky, the fairgrounds is staying plenty busy with other special events.

Fair Manager Ian Kempf says between now and the end of October, numerous events fill the fairgrounds schedule.

The fairgrounds will be hosting another Spring Carnival May 3, 4 and 5 and then welcome visitors to the Eastern Michigan State Fair July 23-27. Many other events are planned this year for the 45-acre parcel located in Imlay City, along M-53, including Woods-N-Water News Outdoor Weekend this fall.

“It’s a busy time for the fairgrounds,” he said. “We have several events planned for May, June, July August—it goes right through till the fall. Then we can think about a vacation,” he added with a chuckle.

The 45-acres of property along the west side of M-53 (S. Cedar St.) will be host to everything from auctions, to swap meets to carnivals to truck shows with a beard growing contest thrown in for good measure.

Two of the big ticket items are the Eastern Michigan State Fair, July 23-27, and the annual Woods-N-Water show in early September.

“We have an annual budget of around $1.2 million and the fair typically generates 80% of our budget,” Kempf explained. “The other 20% comes from all of the other events we host here.”

An auction by Rowley’s later this month and a Michigan Game Bird Swap Meet on April 27 kicks things off at the fairgrounds.

“The bird show is quite an event,” Kempf pointed out. “We get all kinds of birds here and seriously, it is really something to come out and see. Everything from pheasants to peacocks and everything in between that you can think of. It’s a fun Saturday morning of cheap entertainment for a couple hours.”

May 3, 4 and 5 will be the annual Spring Carnival at the fairgrounds, hosted by Vlasic. Skerbeck Carnival will be providing the midway for the weekend.

An antique motorcycle swap and bike show is scheduled for May 5 thru the 7.

In June, the Thumb Livestock Jackpot Show will take over the fairgrounds as exhibitors bring in their hogs and sheep for a day of showmanship and competition.

The popular Sasquatch beard contest invades the fairgrounds June 8 when trophies will be presented to various class winners for unusual beards and mustaches.

The funds raised at that event go directly to the Rainbow Connection, an organization created to grant wishes of children who have special or medical needs.

Kempf said the fair board has two families that have or will benefit from the kindness of the organization.

“It’s a once in a lifetime thing. To give the kids a dream trip,” he said. “These kids are battling cancer or another disease and don’t always know their outcomes, so this is a great way to give them a little time to relax and be a kid.”

Kempf decided in August of last year to join in on the event and has grown a full beard, intending to enter several classes in the competition.

“It’s great family fun. A lot of laughs and it’s for a great cause,” said the bushy-bearded fair manager.

Among the other events planned at the fairgrounds is the gateway to the Thumb Arts & Antiques show, the Michigan Lavender Festival, Pages Circus comes to town July 2 and 3, the Imlay City high school equestrian team will be hosting a horse show in July, just before the start of the Eastern Michigan State Fair.

August brings the American Truck Historical Society truck show, featuring semi-trucks; the Eastern Michigan Rabbit show and a public baptism sponsored by the Heritage Church of Imlay City.

“That’s typically been a pretty popular thing,” Kempf said of the baptism. “It’s been well attended in the past.”

September and October features the Woods-N-Water outdoor show, another circus, the Great Lakes Emergency Preparedness Expo, Mexican Heritage Festival, another auction by Rowleys (in October) and the Octoberfest.

Kempf said the addition of the new 36-foot steel tower on the grounds is made for safety and comfort of those attending events.

“There is a cooling station that is activated on the really hot days,” Kempf stated. “It produces a real fine mist and will be great for those needing to take a break or be refreshed. It also has security cameras on it, a full-grounds paging system and three high-powered speakers.”

Kempf said the structure will also be able to provide electricity to the midway area, eliminating the need for large cables to cross the walkways that have created potential trip hazards in the past.