Arts, Dining & Entertainment, Featured

State Fair begins Aug. 16

Earlier and shorter than dates of past years
By Lani Duke
Aug. 16-20—RUTLAND TOWN—The Vermont State Fair, once a 10-and-a-half-day blend of competitions, livestock, exhibits, carnival rides, “fair food,” 4-H, and concerts, opens its gates for a much-condensed four-and-a-half-day run Aug. 16-20. Organizers have packed a lot of fun into those summer days, hoping the shorter season will bring more people through the gates each day than in the years the fair was longer.
The fair was in danger of closing permanently, caught in a decline in attendance that began around 2011, according to Vermont State Fair Vice President Roland McNeil. Lowered attendance meant fewer ticket sales and less income. Organizers were unable to pay bills and the future looked bleak. But, now the fair’s on its way up, McNeil believes. The Rutland Agricultural Society, the fair’s operating organization, secured a loan and has made a payment agreement with the City. The fair is current on its bills. The fair is earlier in the year, ending before Labor Day, and includes only one Saturday. This timeframe doesn’t conflict with school, which was important, organizers felt.
Changes to the fair have been under discussion for 20 years, McNeil said, but fiscal reality has made them necessary.
Part of those changes include renting out the fairgrounds to visiting entertainment, a practice that previous fair managers have attempted over the years, with varying degrees of success.
This year’s Vermont State Fair includes all the great fun elements of a contemporary fair: lots of music, a demolition derby, livestock and animal acts, magic, milk and maple products, the McDonald’s Bike Giveaway, baking contests, commercial displays, and lots more. For more information and schedule of events see page 17 of this edition or visit vermontstatefair.org.

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