ALPENA - The generations-old tradition of gathering to judge and sell animals, ride carnival machines, consume fried foods and watch live entertainment returns to the Alpena County Fairgrounds this weekend as the 138th annual Alpena County Fair assembles on Saturday and opens on Sunday through Sept. 2.
Animals and projects will arrive at the grounds on Saturday, and the gates open free of charge at 9 a.m. Sunday and Monday for beef, poultry, rabbit, goat, and alpaca judging and the queens contest. Swine, sheep and horse judging continues the following days preceding the 4-H market animal sale at 5 p.m. Wednesday and the opening of the T.J. Schmidt and Co. carnival at 6 p.m.
In addition to perennial crowd pleasers like Wednesay's bump and run, Thursday's demolition derby and Saturday's tractor-truck shows, this year's county fair will host several new events including an open dog show, a canoe/kayak race, and new raffle items. Fair board President Tim Beaudoin said signup for the dog show is open to anyone around 8 a.m. on Sept. 1, an hour before the event.
"The fair board decided they've had enough requests from different people who want to see a dog show, so we're going to have an open dog show this year, plus we have a kayak race on Sunday, Sept. 2," he said, for which kayaks will be available for rent at the grounds.
WATZ's listener appreciation night is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday and will feature country music singer and American Idol finalist Josh Gracin, Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys, and local band Phoenix. True North Radio Network will host Allen as Tim McGraw and the Dance Hall Rockers at 8 p.m. Friday, and the Classic Country Carnival Show featuring a comedian and imitators of Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams will finish fair week at 6 p.m. on Sept. 2.
"It's going to be set up like the Grand Ole Opry. It's old country music," Beaudoin said.
What: Alpena County Fair
When: Sunday, Aug. 26-Sunday, Sept. 2
Where: Alpena County Fairgrounds
The fair also will host raffles for various prizes throughout the week including a porta-cable set, a deer blind, a Savage Axis custom caliber deer rifle, and a Budweiser kayak. Beaudoin said the fair's most exceptional prize, which will be drawn at 7 p.m. Tuesday during the Josh Gracin concert, might be the chance to compete for a $1,495 prize in the bump and run using a car provided by the fair board and hopefully signed by Gracin.
"All you need to bring is a helmet, a set of goggles, and some guts," he said.
A fair board member for four years and a patron for close to 30, Beaudoin believes the fair has seen growing interest in some areas and the opposite in others, but he hopes a move away from a holiday weekend will help attendance next year.
"It's gotten bigger. There is more variety of events, as far as animals. There is more variety of animals ... Years ago it was horses, chickens, rabbits, goats, pigs, and cows, and that was it. Now they have llamas involved, and they have all different kinds of chickens," he said. "Our attendance, I would say, compared to five years ago, is down ... But next year the fair will be in the first part of August. The date will be changed. This will be the last year we're going to be on the holiday weekend."
Gate fees are free on Sunday and Monday, $5 on Tuesday, and $5 for adults and $2 for kids 12 and under through the rest of the week except Saturday, when kids enter for free. A full schedule of events is available on the county website.
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693.