By April Abernathy
The Herald Bulletin
ALEXANDRIA, Ind. —
Bracelet Day at the Madison County 4-H Fair almost resembled an old western ghost town Saturday afternoon.
Short bursts of hot air swirled dirt across the almost-deserted midway where Katie Delph stood at a vendor’s booth purchasing a cold beverage.
“I have a teenager that’s a 10-year 4-H’er and I’ve been coming to the fair for almost 25 years myself,” said Delph, of Anderson. “I’ve never seen the attendance down this much.”
Even during years when it rained, she said, attendance wasn’t as bad as this year.
“It’s hot, but the boys wanted to come out for Bracelet Day,” Mark Delph said. “We were up here Monday and part of Tuesday, too.”
Courtney Cleek noticed the shrinking crowds in a different way.
With help from her grandfather, the 21-year-old sold grilled sweet corn from a booth at the fair. The money made during fair week helps pay college tuition for Cleek and her sister.
“It’s not been as good,” she said. “It’s hot. People still want their corn, though.”
Cleek said sales were close to last year but significantly less than two years ago.
Barb Dowden and Pat Frazier sought shelter under their booth tent. The ladies sat in lawn chairs drinking cool beverages with a fan blowing on them.
“The fair is fine,” Dowden said. “People just aren’t coming out. It’s too hot.”
Frazier said 2011 has been the hottest year she can remember.
“A lot of people normally come out for the whole day, but (this year) they’re just coming to listen to the music and leaving,” she said. “I’ve managed to be here every day. I come to visit friends I only see a few times a year, but it’d be nice to make some money, too.”
With some vendors closed and parking easy to find, Kiwanis president Jack Armstrong sounded positive about the overall turnout of the fair.
“We’ve had pretty good attendance,” he said. “Maybe it’s a little down but pretty good despite the conditions.”
Armstrong said vendors and ride operators told him that fair attendance and spending were down not just because of the heat but also for economic reasons.
“Things are down everywhere,” he said. “But the heat is really taking a toll.”
Despite temperatures in the high 90s for much of fair week, 4-H educator Gary Simmons said there were no heat-related incidents with the participants.
“Believe it or not, we haven’t lost any animals,” Simmons said. “We relaxed a lot of the rules and allowed extension cords (for fans) to the stables.”
Simmons said 4-H’ers were quick to show the animals and get them back to the stalls to be sprayed down.
“The kids were trained well,” he said. “They were good at keeping themselves hydrated, and their animals.”
The reduced attendance didn’t seem to negatively affect the livestock auction either, according to Simmons.
“I don’t know the exact numbers yet, but it seems to be in line with the last two years,” he said. “We had a good crowd and tempers were good, especially with the heat. We were real happy with the way people have cooked with it.”
Contact April Abernathy: 640-4861, firstname.lastname@example.org