By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BERRIEN SPRINGS — Weather proved to be a formidable foe for the Berrien County Youth Fair last week.
Attendance dipped and parking turned into a quagmire for many fairgoers when it rained three out of the seven days in Berrien Springs. With the fairgrounds getting hit with more than 4 inches on its first day, Fair Director Karen Klug said all they could do was put in the work.
“Attendance-wise, we were a little bit down,” Klug said. “Gate-wise, we were down significantly and lost out on a lot of those people that come once a year. We don’t know how this will affect next year. It just tightens our belt a little bit.”
The tally of visitors for this year’s fair was 118,409. For comparison, Klug said last year 125,013 checked in at the front gate.
The fair also faced another obstacle. With three state fairs reporting swine infected with influenza, the board’s fair limited access to its swine barn to exhibitors and two designated adults per family.
The fair’s worst weather days were Monday and Saturday as torrential rains tore through the region. Klug said the huge downpours led to the cancellation of nightly events. The fair also saw rain on Friday, but Klug said attendance was still good as the skies cleared up by evening.
Tractor pull competitions and the Diesel Domination event were canceled toward the end of Saturday because parking lots became too muddy.
“It was a real challenge with our parking because it’s grass,” Klug said. “You have to think of it as a couple cars driving through your backyard. We had to move some animals, move some water, but we rolled with it. Everybody pitched in.”
At the back-end of the fairgrounds where tractor exhibitors park, it was particularly troublesome. Klug said the ground was not strong enough to hold any of the heavy equipment.
“The ground wasn’t even hard enough with regular traffic,” she said. “We canceled it to avoid seeing people get stuck.”
Klug explained it can be hard to replace a fair event when the weather can change within 24 hours. Because of this, the fair didn’t cancel the tractor pull until shortly after noon.
While the tractor competition was cancelled, Klug said they were fortunate to have Bullmania put on an additional show.
Klug said officials will be spending the next week going over everything from finances to exhibitor participation.
“Our committees are already thinking about next year. It’s a perpetual process,” Klug said. “We’re happy about the people who came and hopefully they were able to view the exhibits because that’s what we’re here for. We look forward to seeing them next year.”