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Good Weather, Outstanding Programming For Champlain Valley Fair
Reithoffer signs new 5-year contract

9/24/2009

By Ron Weber, Editor

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Essex Junction, VT -Sunshine and beautiful weather arrived just in time to lure huge crowds to the 88th Champlain Valley Fair, presented by Progressive, held August 29 to September 7, 2009. Overall attendance at the 10-day Fair was approximately 288,000, up 2.4 percent from 2008, said General Manager David Grimm.

Grimm cited good weather and outstanding programming as two of the most significant reasons for the increase in attendance. After a rainy summer, people were eager to come out and enjoy themselves. "We had nearly perfect weather for nine of the 10 days, and that certainly put people in the mood to come be a part of "summer's last blast," Grimm said. The Fair offers the most free entertainment of any fair in New England, Grimm noted. "People this year have commented how they felt the "fun quotient, at this year's fair was high," he commented.

Grimm credits the variety of grandstand shows, agricultural exhibitions and free entertainment for attracting a wide-ranging audience. "We had an excellent lineup of shows for our audiences, with a lot of variety and a good combination of the familiar and the new in our programming," Grimm said. "We counted cars from 45 states and four Canadian provinces in our lots during the fair, and our campground was full, so people came from quite a distance to enjoy what we had to offer."

The Comcast Stage in the Coca-Cola Grandstand welcomed top entertainers to the Fair again this year. Iconic rock band Chicago opened the Bud Light True Music series at the fair on Aug. 29. Country music star Brad Paisley, wowed the audience with a spectacular musical show. Joining him at the Aug. 30 performance were up-and-coming stars Dierks Bentley and Jimmy Wayne. Alternative rock bands were featured as well, with the "Stimulate This" tour bringing Staind, Shinedown, Chevelle and Halestorm together on Aug. 31. Original "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson, thrilled her audience on Sept. 4. Comedian/ventriloquist Jeff Dunham entertained the largest crowd of the Fair on Sept. 5, inspiring laughter with his cast of dummies, including Walter the Cranky Retiree and Achmed the Dead Terrorist. A large crowd returned the next night for Kid Rock, who lit up the stage for the final concert on Sept. 6. Representing the Exposition for all concerts was Bill Magann of Variety Attractions.

Motorsports made the crowds sit up and take notice as jumps, crashes and pulls muscled their way onto center stage. The Land Air Extreme MX Motorcycles Show (and Earth Waste Systems Championship Demolition Derby and Rollover Contest drew large crowds. The Dixie Chopper Grand National Truck and Tractor Pull provided ground-pounding action on Labor Day. Competitors from 15 states and provinces participated in the NTPA-sanctioned power pulls, which awarded more than $25,000 in prize money.

Free entertainment is a crowd favorite during the fair. New acts this year included the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show; the Nerger Tigers & Lion Show; strolling entertainer Little Rollo; and the Budweiser Clydesdales (direct), returning to the Fair for the first time in ten years. These acts were part of a lineup that featured Mutts Gone Nuts canine act, the Bigtop Circus featuring the Anastasini Family Circus and; the Dazzling Mills Family jugglers and unicyclists; Steve Bayner Hypnotist; Old McDonald's Farm; and Mike Hashem Dixieland Strollers.

The Vermont Talent Showcase on the Burlington Free Press Stage featured local musicians. In their third year at the Fair, the US Marine Corps Band from Albany, Georgia presented daily concerts and were featured in a Grandstand show on Sept. 3. Heritage Village, sponsored by F.E. Hart Fence Co., highlighted traditional crafts, including blacksmithing, chair caning, rope making, and open hearth cooking. The Giant Sand Sculpture (celebrated the Quadricentennial Lake Champlain Observance in 2009 with a work featuring Samuel de Champlain, Abenaki tribesmen and legendary sea creature Champ. Wolverine, from the X-Men Comic, greeted children throughout the day.

A total of 1,784 animals were showcased in agricultural exhibitions, including oxen, draft and show horses, cattle, sheep, rabbits and poultry. The culinary area featured 101 entries in various baking competitions, kitchen cooking demos, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture's Taste of Vermont exhibits. The Art Pavilion had 886 entries, while the home crafts department showcased 248 crafters and more than 17,370 pieces. The Garden Center, home of the popular giant pumpkins, housed more than 1,150 displays of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Education took center stage on Read & Win Day. Hundreds of young people and their families visited the circus for a special performance in their honor. The children enjoyed the fair compliments of the Exposition in recognition of their reading at least three books throughout the summer. Three thousand students in grades K-8 participated in Read & Win. Also, more than 1,000 students, their teachers and chaperones enjoyed a free Educational School Field Trip on Friday, Sept. 4, thanks to support from the KeyBank Foundation.

Carnival operator Reithoffer Shows presented more than 40 rides, including a new Himalaya thrill ride and numerous games, concessions and attractions. Reithoffer has been the carnival provider since 1980, and they announced the signing of another five-year contract. "Reithoffer Shows has done an incredible job for nearly 30 years, and we look forward to having outstanding rides and games for the foreseeable future," Grimm said. Ride gross, up 7.6%, was attributed to superior weather, improved layout and promotion, and youth-oriented rides and attractions.

On the concessions side, a total of 202 vendors were featured. Sixty-one sold food and beverage, 13 were non-profits, and six were agricultural. Beer and wine were sold at two locations.

In 2010, the fair will run from August 28 to September 6.

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