County fair is here

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, July 11, 2009

ROME TOWNSHIP — The anticipation is over. It has finally arrived.

Following 51 weeks of loneliness, the Lawrence County Fairgrounds welcomed its first official visitors Saturday with the kickoff of the county’s annual agricultural gathering.

While the fair’s opening ceremonies are not until Monday afternoon, those who braved darkening clouds and sketchy weather were treated to perks only a county fair can offer.

The smells of sausage and funnel cakes traveled throughout the midway while carnival barkers encourages patrons to test their luck at wining a prize.

Kids pointed to their favorite rides while peering through chain link fence bordering State Street.

A water truck prepares to muddy the grandstand infield for Saturday night’s demolition derby.

The public address announcers voice echoes across most of the property making sure his articulation is precise.

But for much of the fairgrounds, Saturday afternoon was calm and quiet. The day gave exhibitors a final opportunity to tie up any loose ends.

The livestock pens were empty with the occasional chirping of a hungry sparrow in the rafters.

Its only occupants were the dozens of white cards fastened above each pen identifying its upcoming tenant and handler.

Not even the llama’s arrived leading to the cancellation of their show Saturday morning, fair officers confirmed.

At the eastern edge of the shelter near the hog pens, the pounding of a hammer and the squealing of a cordless drill break up the constant humming of nearby traffic.

The livestock show ring is also quiet. In a few days, a year’s worth of effort will be parading through its gates for fairgoers and fellow exhibitors to cheer and subsequently bid on.

But Saturday, no one is in the stands. Only an 11th hour paint job decorates the forest green announcer’s stand.

Traffic along the resurfaced midway picks up as the day goes on.

The sweet smell of the newly poured asphalt lingers when the breeze picks up. The air conditioning of an exhibit hall brings relief from the humidity.

Most of the rides are assembled.

The old-standards like the carousel, the Ferris wheel, the Scrambler and a pair of fun houses take their traditional places.

Vendors who border the traveling amusement park are getting ready to sell items like retro jewelry, tie-die shirts and airbrush tattoos.

Parking attendants rest in lawn chairs spaced throughout the fairgrounds knowing breaks will be precious later in the week when more than 60,000 people converge on the fair.

It may be quiet, but its just another opening Saturday for fair president Doug Clark.

“So far everything is going very smoothly for a first Saturday of the fair,” Clark said while zipping by the main grandstand on a golf cart.

Clark says he is ready. The vendors are ready. The exhibitors will be ready.

Are you?

The Lawrence County Fair continues Sunday with livestock weigh-ins staring at 7 a.m. The Wolf Creek Motorcross/Harmon’s Honda takes the green flag at 8 p.m. in the Grandstand.