Mayfest has county-fair atmosphere in the spring
SALISBURY — When it comes to festivals and fairs, who says autumn should have all the fun?
The first and second nights of Mayfest at the Rowan County Fairgrounds brought a little of that county-fair atmosphere back for springtime.
Despite the threat of clouds and rain, patrons were coming in steadily during the first hour and beyond.
Jennifer Studer said she’d been looking forward to Mayfest.
“I’ve been riding past, the last couple of weeks, and saw the signs,” Studer said.
She, her brother Jason Hardy and her sister Jessica Cooper brought kids and spouses. “It’s a family outing!” said Cooper. “I like that it’s not crowded.”
“This crowd is better” — more suited to families with kids, Hardy said.
The family’s four kids all came running back for more tickets moments later, before setting off to find the next thrill ride.
“It was better than expected for the first night,” said Ivey Almond, co-owner, with husband Gerald, of Rockin’ A Ranch.
Along the midway’s edge, they offered camel rides, pony rides and a petting zoo.
“We’re expecting a real big weekend,” Ivey Almond said.
Over the way, Stewie the camel was waiting for his next rider.
“We had one little girl rode twice last night, and done been back and rode again tonight,” Gerald Almond said.
Johnny Love, of the Rowan County Fair Association, said the time had come for a springtime event.
This is one of the newest events to take place since the Spencer and Faith Jaycees purchased the fairgrounds from the county last year.
“People have been cooped up all winter,” Love said. “The weather’s finally turning nice, and people want to come out, enjoy a festival, enjoy good clean family fun.”
Love estimated there had been 726 paying customers on Thursday, the first night of the event. That doesn’t count children under 3 who get in free, Love said.
Thursday was $1 night, sponsored by Cornerstone Church.
Tonight, Wayward Reason will perform on the music stage.
Nojoe’s Circus will have shows at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
And the midway features 16 rides, and around 30 vendors, Love said.
“We didn’t want it to be like the county fair,” Love said. “We wanted it to be more of the festival atmosphere.”
There are no contests or livestock exhibitions, and a more subdued atmosphere.
Inside the vendor building, Heather Everson of Okey Dokey General Store staffed a large display with merchandise from their downtown store.
The biggest sellers, she said, were glass-bottle sodas, including Cheerwine, RC cola and Bleinheim ginger ale.
“I think the sodas in the bottles bring back a little bit of nostalgia,” Everson said. “They like digging it out of the old ice box.”
Owner Stan Williamson said Mayfest was a way to promote the custom-designed furniture made from materials reclaimed from old houses.
At Nojoe’s Clown Circus, set up alongside the midway, the bleachers were packed as the opening music began.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it is showtime!” the barker yelled over the loudspeaker.
Nojoe the clown ran out on stage, getting the audience hyped up: “Are ya ready to have fun?”
Billed as an all new show, Love said Nojoe’s circus — which came to the Rowan County Fair about four years ago — will feature acrobatics, a dog act and, of course, clowns.
There may be some weather to worry about for the rest of Mayfest.
Forecasters were calling for a 30 percent chance of showers and storms today, and a 60 percent chance Saturday leading into Sunday.
Love said he isn’t concerned. “The weather always plays a role in attendance of any outside event,” he said.
Organizers are banking on this event becoming as much a tradition as the Rowan County Fair.
Mayfest will open at 5:30 p.m. today, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Admission is $3 per person, and children under 3 years old get in free. Parking is $1 per vehicle.
Saturday and Sunday, armbands for rides will be available for $20 from 2 to 6 p.m.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.