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Did big Saturday save fair week?
By: MICHELLE REIFF Review Staff firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
In the calm after the storm, one day could quite possibly have made up for the damp weather and spirits that preceded it.
Friday’s downpour forced vendors on the midway of the Ephrata Fair to close their stands for the evening and Tent City activities to be canceled for the weekend, but Saturday’s bright sunny skies warmly greeted those anxious for one last chance to enjoy some Fink’s fries, win a goldfish or take a ride on the Zipper.
Elaine Sensenig, Ephrata Farmers Day Association president, who was watching the weather forecast all week along with the other officers, said that although having to close for a portion of the event does affect the financial outcome, the attendance on other days was impressive.
"Although the numbers are not in yet, I am optimistic at this point — that we at least broke even or made some money," said Sensenig, who noticed the immense crowd on Saturday after the rain included a lot visitors eager to visit each other, buy food and go on rides.
"On opening day there was a real nice crowd uptown and on Thursday at the livestock auction," said Sensenig. She feels that Thursday’s Tent City increase in numbers was due in part to the cancelled Denver Fair participants being invited to the sale.
Wednesday’s early evening rain storm had fair organizers, parade participants and guests on the edge of their seat, wondering if this year’s march would be cancelled.
"We had a meeting at 1 p.m.," said Sensenig. "If we’re going to cancel, the deadline to let people know is 5 p.m."
When the rain stopped in time for the event to go on as scheduled, parade onlookers throughout the area were relieved, but some noticed that the parade was shorter this year. Sensenig said that there were several reasons for this. First, three units did not show because rain that occurred approximately an hour before. Secondly, two other groups cancelled earlier in the week for non-weather related activities. Thirdly, everyone kept moving pretty quickly.
Another key to overall financial success which thrilled Sensenig was the crowd on the midway on Kiddies Day.
"The weather was nice; it was hot," she said. "We had a nice variety of things for the kids to do." Attractions included a new ride call Hog Wild, a cornhole bean bag game and the traditional "one ticket less" ride special.
Friday brought a large amount of rain to the area, making for a tough situation for the fair in general. Sensenig said the prediction of flash floods was what caused the officers to make their final decision to close the midway Friday. She noted that because it was raining, even if the midway remained open the rides would have closed.
"The food vendors that travel around the circuit were thankful for the closing," said Sensening, who was surprised that the local clubs were more inclined to want to stay open.
All in all, Sensenig said vendors were very co-operative and understanding, in part because of comfort and safety of not only themselves but visitors. A few game stands that were open during the day raised the concern of sitting in water, and some food stands were having electrical issues.
She added that most she talked to joked around about not being able to control the weather and that one stand had a sign out that said "dry space rented for 25 cents an hour."
Association Treasurer and Tent City Chair Sue Pfautz said that although the midway was shut down temporarily a few years ago, the closing of Tent City in its entirety is something that has not happened in the 37 years she and her husband have been involved with the fair.
"We have never dealt with this kind of rain that we had to shut down and clean up like this," said Pfautz. "We had to cancel the tractor pull before because of the location (in the field up from the creek) and have had Family Fun Night canceled but not to the extent that we had to send everything out.
In addition to the tractor pull and Family Fun Night, other festivities cancelled included tractor games, the cornhole tournament and the baby parade. Pfautz said there was a place in the tent that had been designated as the "rain" location for the baby parade; she feels, however, that the small amount of people registered also played a part in the decision to cancel.
The holding of the rabbit show as scheduled on Friday evening brightened the spirits of participants and guests. The other animals were sent out beginning on Thursday night and Tent City vendors lost income as the rain deterred pre-parade Wednesday evening visitors. But this show featured 114 rabbits, with 100 percent participation.
"They had to move under the roof at the skateboard park," said Pfautz. "There was very poor lighting, but we had a show and they were very glad."
Lt. Chris McKim of the Ephrata Police Department said the criminal activity during fair week was lower than average this year. There were a couple of fights and one retail arrest on Saturday involving a woman taking $200 worth of hair extensions from a stand. Police reports were not yet available yet on these incidents, but McKim reported the theft resulted in a misdemeanor charge.
According to police, a 17-year old male was arrested after police found him stumbling around the fair area highly intoxicated Thursday at 8:30 p.m. The male was brought to the police station, cited for underage drinking/consumption and taken home and released to his parents.
Also on Thursday, police reported that Jeffrey Stramma, 28, of Pleasant View Road, Ephrata, was found downtown at the fair causing a disturbance at 9:35 p.m. Police stopped him and took him into custody upon discovering a Lancaster County Sheriff warrant was active for his arrest. Stramma was turned over to the sheriff’s department.
"There were no other pervasive problems," said McKim. "We were pleased with the conduct of the public during the fair."
McKim noted that the safety committee works hard to address unsafe conditions and planning of weather events and makes sure that the public stays safe.
For the Ephrata Ambulance Association, the fact that there were no bee stings reported was unusual. According to Kevin Wolf, EMS manager, there are usually an average of about five during that week.
"I think the big thing reason for this was the closed trash cans and that a lot of the stands were using straws," said Wolf.
Wolf reported that there were a few other incidents that occured. There was a shoulder injury at the pig chase. On Thursday they took treated a toe laceration, a hip injury and a person going unconscious, two of which needed to be transported. Those treated on Saturday included a fall patient and two unconsious patients. Two of these were transported as well.
"It was an average year for us," said Wolf.
Several new vendors greeted visitors on the midway this year, including Danny’s Sausages, the same owner of the new homemade root beer float stand which set up across from the fair office; a three-room log house, with interior and exterior components carved out of a 1,900-year-old redwood tree; a weight-guesser set up in three different locations downtown; and a bean bag cornhole game.
"Most of these people are here because the Bloomsburg Fair was cancelled," said Terry Lesher, association vice president and concessions chair, who added that the number of vendors increased this year to 130.
Lesher decided to group the majority of the new vendors in the lower section of the midway, an area which often seems to have less stands. (For the third year now a fire lane has prevented him from lining one side of the street in this vicinity).
Sensenig received positive comments from some new vendors, who in general were pleased with their profits. One gentleman was selling sunglasses and purses and was surprised that the Ephrata Fair didn’t have more such vendors.
"In the past the fair wasn’t typically a fair that had people selling (non-food) ‘things,’" said Sensenig.
As Saturday’s beautiful weather and substantial crowd in many ways made up for the challenges of the week, Sensenig noted, "Some things run smooth with the fair; some things we’ve got to work on for next year." She also noted the association could use additional volunteers in set-up and clean-up. More FAIR, page A17