Wayne County Fair weekend attendance down a little

It was a classic bad-news-good-news situation at the Wayne County Fair on Saturday.

The bad news was the fair, which loves to see its weekend attendance records fall like dominoes from one successive year to the next, did not have record-breaking figures, thanks almost certainly to stubborn rain showers.

The good news is everything else went well.

Daytime attendance for Saturday rang in at 13,943, with the nighttime numbers put at 12,424, for a combined 26,367. This was somewhat lower than last year's Saturday total of 35,353, but close to the 2012 Saturday total of 28,544.

But Sunday's totals looked more promising, with traffic in the early afternoon backed up from the fairgrounds to Walnut Street.

One person who had his hands full was Gary Fulmer of Wooster-based Falcon Investigative Services, who was dealing with motorists wanting to park in the lot of the county administration building, which this year became exclusively handicapped parking.

Fulmer, who said not all motorists have been understanding, noted the biggest problem is people spot the 14 large spaces that have been reserved for vans that have hydraulic lifts that raise and lower people in wheelchairs. He said those spots have gone unused on his watch and there are a lot of handicapped patrons who would like to use them but cannot.

Deputy Ryan Koster, who is coordinating fair security for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, said the "call volume is down for the amount of crowd we have. It's all going as well as we could ask for."

In the American Red Cross booth, which maintains a staff of nine trained medics Saturday, Sunday and Monday to handle what are the fair's traditionally busiest times, Mike Priest said as of noontime Sunday, things have been pretty quiet.

Priest said while there has been one transport to the hospital, most of the action has involved people who are not used to walking developing blisters.

He said there have been injuries to kids who have been thrown from or kicked by horses, and there have been cuts and abrasions and one sprained ankle.

Under the grandstand, Medway Drug Enforcement Agency was stopping fairgoers dead in their tracks with a display dubbed "Faces of Meth." It shows the faces of people who had been on methamphetamines for a period of years, and how the drug changed their appearances.

Jim Garret, who has had a 40-year career in area law enforcement, talked about the effects of the drug, and showed maps of Wayne County, Wooster, Orrville and Rittman pinpointing where arrests had been made last year.

Among those looking at the "Faces of Meth" were Ryan and April Stinemetz of Wooster, and their 8-year-old daughter, Brooke.

April said, "It's so sad that people make that choice. This is horrifying."

Her comments were echoed by Ryan, who noted, "It's sad to see something like this," adding the arrest site posters are effective, "because these people have to know that they'll be caught if they continue these activities. And yet they do."

The Medway booth also features displays related to bath salts and K-2/spice drugs.

Across the aisle under the grandstand, Jack Runion of Runion's Furniture in Orrville displayed an assemblage of lounge chairs and recliners, many of which appeared to be in use by tired fairgoers.

Runion said the business has been setting up at the heavily-trafficked location since 1984, and calls it "the best location for retailing in all of Wayne County. Where else can you get 120,000 people to walk right past your door?"

While Runion says he doesn't sell a huge amount of furniture at the fair, the booth "helps build relationships, contacts and momentum for the store," with many who have visited the booth calling or visiting the Orrville store other times during the year.

Across the way is Liberty Studios, which has occupied the same booth for 51 years, showcasing photographs and portraits.

Owner Chris Whitemyer said the draw is people always want to see the latest trends in photography for wedding photos, graduation portraits and family photos.

"They're looking for something that their next-door neighbor doesn't have," said Whitemyer, noting portraiture for weddings and other gatherings has become much more casual in recent years.

Among his formal wear, he displays camouflage-pattern tuxedos. Originally, he said, he ordered 12 of the tuxes for rentals. Now he says he has 50 and can't keep them in stock.

In the domestic arts building, assistant superintendent Janet Kasserman said the numbers are down for such items as quilts, counted cross-stitch pictures and other sewing knitting projects.

Kasserman said interest has fallen among younger people, while many of those who produced such works in the past are getting too old to do it. On the other hand, a category for "selfie" photographs, which the department felt would appeal to young people, fell flat, with few entries.

Melody Kirby of Wooster, who took the reins of the department from longtime superintendent Norma Fry, pointed out while the number of carvings and sculptural pieces was up, fine arts pieces overall were down.

In the agricultural and horticultural products show, Superintendent Winston Wyckoff III said entries were up from the usual around 1,200 entries to 1,747 this time.

Wyckoff attributed the increase to a good growing summer, with cooler temperatures and ample sunlight.

Wyckoff said one of the big increases was in the colored eggs category. Within that, he said, was a basket of large, yellowish emu eggs that have drawn a lot of attention.

He said that entry, which fit the department's criteria for regular chicken eggs, will force it to institute an exotic eggs category in the future.

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