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Cha-ching! Lawrence County fares well at fair time

Think of the Lawrence County fair and what comes to mind? Children and their 4-H projects? Corn dogs? Amusement rides?

For some local businesses, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of the fair is cold hard cash, lots of it, flowing into their cash registers. For some area businesses, catering to those who attend or work at the fair is big business.

See you the fair

The Lawrence County Fair draws an estimated crowd of 30,000 each day, according to fair board member Albert Childers.

"Wednesday, we were down some because of the rain. If it rains along about two or three o'clock, the crowds are down but we're satisfied with this year. It's been good," he said.

The income from the fair stays in Lawrence County to pay for the next year's fair and to pay for various 4-H projects.

The annual livestock auction on the last two days of the fair brings in an estimated $57,000 a year. While the bulk of the money is changed from one Lawrence County hand to another, local people bidding on local children's projects, this exchange of money is a direct result of the fair.

While fair board members and local business leaders said no one has ever done a study of exactly how much of an economic impact the fair has on the local economy, no one denies it has a big effect.

"I am convinced it does help the county, but I don't have any exact figures," said Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

They come, see, spend

Most of the year, Clark's Pump-N-Shop at the corner of state routes 7 and 243 in Rome Township is a busy place.

Travelers want gasoline, the hungry come for a bite to eat. But in the days just prior to and during the week of the Lawrence County Fair, store employees said foot traffic and sales increase noticeably.

Whether a cup of morning coffee and a donut or a midday deli sandwich, store manager Rex Trimble said fairgoers and vendors alike file in and out all day long.

This year, the fair rides have started at 4 p.m. and when the amusement rides get going, so does the influx of customers at the convenience store. Though Trimble declined to give specific figures, he said business booms at fair time.

"From about four o'clock on, it's like a madhouse," Trimble said. "They come in to get pop, water, cigarettes, coffee, just about anything. If we could have it (the fair) 52 weeks out of the year, that would be great."

Across State Route 7 at the Rome-Proctorville Foodfair, traffic doesn't change much, head cashier Della Meadows said. She said business is a little more brisk in the daytime but drops off in the evening during fair week.

"In the daytime they come in and buy pop and ice and buy some groceries," Meadows said. "… It dies off about 7 o clock, especially on derby night. Everyone wants to see those cars hitting."

Childers said that majority of the vendors who have food booths at the fair are Lawrence County businesses or organizations.

The Teresa chapter of the Order of Eastern Star operates a food booth each year at the fair. Eastern Star member Rachel Hayes said income varies from year to year and is dependent largely on the weather -

good weather means more people at the fair and in turn, more hungry mouths to serve. Rain keeps visitors away.

"It varies from $1,200 to several thousand dollars," she said. That money goes to various community service projects.

"This week really gives many of them a real shot in the arm," Childers said.

This year concessions and amusement rides were available two days longer than in previous years, opening Saturday, July 9, instead of opening the Monday of fair week. Childers said those extra two days will also certainly boost vendors' income.

Out of town visitors

While the fair is intended to showcase the talent of Lawrence County children and entertain county residents, the fair draws visitors from out of town.

While some of the out-of-towners are expatriates living elsewhere who come home to visit loved ones for fair week, many others have no ties to the area and come to either make money or have fun.

Janie Payne, receptionist at the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, said that within the last month, she has received 30 to 40 calls from non-locals who were interested in the fair for one reason or another.

"Two or three wanted to know about the vendors and some wanted to know about the demolition derby and then the rodeo," she said. "Some want a schedule of the fair."