June 19 • 12:58 PM

Fair skies make great fair

Early numbers show record attendance at this year's Eastern Michigan State Fair

Abbey Rutkowski, Kallan Ruhala and Hannah Revoldt of Almont enjoy the wild ride at the fair on Saturday afternoon. photo by Brendan Feys.

August 14, 2013
IMLAY CITY — Monday morning found Ian Kempf crunching attendance numbers and although his figures were preliminary, the Eastern Michigan State Fair's manager didn't hesitate to classify the 2013 event as another rousing success.

"The numbers are going to prove this to be the biggest fair in my 16 year tenure," Kempf said.

"It was absolutely wonderful."

Kempf credits relatively good weather and fair's reputation for providing clean and safe facilities and affordable family fun for the record turnout.

"We did have a little bit of rain on Wednesday night and that kind of hindered the Spin Doctors concert, but other than that it was really good," Kempf said.

In fact, fair organizers were counting their lucky stars when the skies stayed blue on Saturday. It was the first time in four years that it didn't rain on the fair's final day. That fact, coupled with an impressive $8,000 winners purse, resulted in a huge turnout for the demolition derby, both in drivers and grandstand fans.

"It drew drivers from Canada and the west side of the state. We had been struggling for several years due to the rain and dying car count but with an $8,000 purse, the guys who ran were happy and the crowd was ecstatic," Kempf said.

On Thursday Sheila McKenna of Ortonville and her three grandkids took a break from the midway and shared a huge plate of butterfly chips.

"It's our once a year treat," Sheila said while Mike and Piper McKenna and Nathan Wallis crunched away.

Later they planned to chow down on corndogs and elephant ears after getting some more ride time in. Coming to the Eastern Michigan State Fair has become a family tradition for the McKennas.

"The grounds are so clean and it's just a nice, friendly fair," Sheila said.

Like the McKennas, Shannan Perna of Marlette planned to make a day of it at the fair on Thursday with her kids.

"We come every year. It's the highlight of their summer," Shannan while two of her youngsters, Nino and Daniela, hopped onto a ride.

In addition to grandstand events, rides on the midway and traditional fair food, crowds also converged on the fairgrounds for livestock judging and the annual livestock auction on Thursday afternoon.

The Eastern Michigan Fair Board also took the time to honor some of the volunteers that make the fair possible. The Friend of Youth Award was bestowed upon Ellen Gardner, the fair's goat superintendent who has volunteered in that capacity for the last 30 years. Jim Slack was honored with the Volunteer of the Year award. The Imlay City Lions Club member and father of three 4-H and FFA participants is always willing to lend a hand on all kinds of projects, Kempf said.

For more photos of the Fair turn to page 4-A and visit our website at

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.
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