‘County Fair 2’ planned for November; Four-day event will feature rides, food vendors
By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY – The Rowan County Fair was supposed to be open for nine days starting Sept. 25.
Instead, fair manager Johnny Love said, “we were open for more like nine hours.”
Days of rain and storms resulted in the fair opening a day late and shutting down two days early, with limited operations in between.
Love said attendance was about a tenth of the 25,000 visitors predicted.
And Randall Barger, president of the nonprofit Rowan County Fair Association, said the rain-out may cost the group over $100,000.
But the association has a plan to make up some of that loss and keep the county fairgrounds funded for the coming year.
Tuesday, the Fair Association announced “Rowan County Fair 2: Let the Sunshine Roll,” a smaller event with rides and food to be held Thursday, Nov. 5 through Sunday, Nov. 8 at the fairgrounds.
Admission at the gate will be free, Love said. Tickets and armbands will be sold for rides, with discount offers at select days and times.
Parking will be $1 per car, with proceeds going to the Jaycees, Barger said.
B&K Amusements, the company that provides carnival rides at the annual Faith Fourth of July, is expected to bring two units with about 20 rides to the event, Barger said.
And Love said the group is reaching out to concession vendors who usually come to the fair. At least one has already agreed to return in November.
Barger said that if enough sponsors can be found, the demolition derby that was planned for the first Rowan County Fair may also be held.
“We’ve just had so many phone calls and e-mails from people who wanted to come to the fair,” Love said. “We want the people of the county to be able to come out and enjoy themselves.”
Big rain, big loss
But there’s another reason the Fair Association needs the second event.
It costs over $125,000 to put on the fair each year, Barger said, and those expenses have to be paid, rain or shine.
Barger said this year’s rain-soaked event only brought in about $30,000.
“It was a huge loss to the fair, by us not being able to get just one night in,” Barger said.
“We had about $20,000 worth of entertainment booked,” Love said. “We were able to cancel some things, like the demolition derby and the fireworks. Others, like the circus, Hubba Bubba the Clown and the pig races, they all got paid.”
Livestock shows and competitions for field crops, baked goods and home furnishings were also held as planned, with about $5,000 in prizes awarded, Love said.
Although the Rowan County Fair did open for limited hours, including a visit by special-needs schoolchildren on Oct. 1, Love said safety was a major concern.
Friday and Saturday, on what would’ve been the last two days of the fair, storms dumped about five inches of rain on Rowan County as winds downed trees and power lines.
Love said some people have complained that the fair should have opened in spite of the weather.
“You can run some of the rides in the rain, but others you can’t,” Love said. “And personally, I’d rather never have a fair again than have one child, or one employee, get hurt out there.”
Hope for support
Barger said he hopes Rowan County will come out and enjoy the mini-fair on Nov. 5 through 8.
“We know a lot of people wanted to come to the fair, but weren’t able to because of the rain-out,” Barger said.
Love said admission at the gate will be free so that families can come out and enjoy the rides and food.
Plans are in the works for a dance, with live entertainment, on one of the nights, Love said. There will be a separate admission charge for that event.
Also, Barger said the company that planned to offer helicopter rides at the fair plans to come back for “Part 2.”
The demolition derby attracted a lot of interest, Barger said, but the association needs financial help to reschedule it.
“If we can get six or seven businesses to sponsor it, that can put us there,” Barger said.
Organizers said the event is still in the planning stages, and there may be more announcements of entertainment or attractions in the days ahead.
If all goes well, “Part 2” of the Rowan County Fair will be a moneymaker, with the Fair Association getting a percentage of the amount spent on rides, Barger said.
“This is kind of make-or-break for the Fair Association. They’ve got to have money to operate year-round,” Barger said.
In the meantime, Barger said the nonprofit Rowan County Fair Association is looking at other fundraising events, such as an oyster roast, to help fill the gap.
“We just have to roll up our sleeves,” Barger said. “Instead of depending on the fair to provide the money to operate all year, we’re going to have to do more fundraisers to keep the lights on and the water running,” Barger said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.