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TALLMADGE -- Planning is at fever pitch as the date for the 2017 Summit County Fair approaches.
The summer staple will run from July 25-30 on the grounds at 229 E. Howe Road, and Theresa Call, one of its organizers, is expecting between 35,000 and 40,000 attendees. Call has been involved with the fair for 20 years and been a member of the volunteer fair board since 2009. Call presently serves as its vice president.
The Summit County Fair began in 1849 at the county courthouse and moved to Tallmadge in 1957, Call said.
The budget for the fair is approximately $600,000, which is raised through admission and fees, Call said.
"The goal is to break even," she said.
Planning the fair is a year-round process for the 26-member board, and as the countdown to opening day continues, Call says new offerings have been added entertainment-wise and the gazebo and flower boxes are being spruced up. A beard-in-the-barnyard contest, a dinosaur program and trout pond will debut this year.
Registration for the beard-in-the-barnyard contest can be found online at www.summitfair.com and includes a fee. The dinosaur shows are educational with different sized dinosaur creations on July 26 at noon, 2, 6, and 7:30 p.m. And July 27 at noon, 2, and 5:30 p.m. The trout pond allows fishing in a large tank, and the fish are caught and released.
"We add new things to attract people back to the fair," Call says. "Our thinking is, 'If we offer the same things every year, why will people continue to come?'"
So Stella Circus, an act which features trapeze, rope walking, aerial silk and performing rescue dogs, has been secured; pig races have been scheduled and a pet parade proposed.
Fair hours for 2017 have changed, too; Gates open at 8 a.m. but the event will be closing Tuesday through Thursday at 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 11 p.m.; and Sunday at 7 p.m.
Admission is $6 for age 9 and older and $2 for kids 2 to 8 years old. There are extra costs for rides and the grandstand shows.
"We have not added any new food items this year," Call says. "We have kept our eyes and ears out for something new in Ohio, but haven't found it yet."
Speciality admission days will include: Youth Sports Day, July 25 -- Youngsters ages 2-14 wearing a team sports shirt will receive admission for $1; Veterans, Seniors and Farm Bureau Day, July 26, with $2 admission for members of those groups; Family Day, July 27 --Youngsters 14 and under will be admitted free or bring a brand new teddy bear to be donated to Akron Children's Hospital and receive $2 off admission until 3 p.m.; Akron Canton Food Bank Day, July 28 -- Bring a canned or boxed good and receive fair admission for $2 until 3 p.m.
Grandstand events will include Motocross on July 25; Demolition Derby, July 26; non-sanctioned Truck Pulls July 27; Ohio State Tractor Association Pulls, July 28; non-sanctioned Open to the World Tractor Pulls, July 29; and a Rough Trucks competition, July 30.
Again this year, fair visitors may participate in an agriculture education and promotion program called "Ag-Venture," by visiting nine stations around the fairgrounds, and collecting stamps at each. Completed cards can be dropped off for chances to win drawings for prizes and entrants do not need to be present to win.
"We've had great participation with the Ag-Venture program with everyone going to different stations," Call said. "Rides are always a huge attraction and the Demolition Derby is the most in demand grandstand event. If something isn't popular, they take advice from comments and "tweak" it, she added.
"We moved some entertainment to higher traffic areas because of feedback, Call said.
The fair relies on volunteers from the different 4-H clubs to prepare the barns and conduct the activities, she said.
The 4-H clubs volunteer at the last stop on the Ag-Venture station and have an opportunity to share their experience and invite others to join a club, Call said.
Clubs who have seen decline in attendance, have begun to grow their numbers, especially when they realize they don't need an animal to join 4-H, Call said.
"All the work is worth it once the fair opens and the children arrive," Call said.
Editor's note: Reporter Laura Freeman contributed to this story.
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC