Champlain Valley Fair, the largest annual event in Vermont, took place from Aug. 24 through Sept. 2. The theme this year was The 10 Best Days of Summer.
Fairgoers enjoyed fantastic weather for 2018, despite a few days of low humidity when there was said to be less of a crowd in attendance. A total of 125,000 people came out for the event. Champlain Valley Exposition Sales and Marketing Manager Jeff Bartley says the number of people who came out to the fair was up slightly for 2018. In 2017, the fair had around 120,000 people in attendance.
“We had four really successful concerts, and overall it was a really good year with beautiful weather,” Bartley shares.’
Cost of admission was $12 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 though 12. Children under 5 received free admission. There were several special days which also brought in the crowds. These included Kid's Day, where children received $4 admission all day; Senior Day, where Senior Citizens over the age of 50 saved $3 off their ticket price; Vermont Foodbank Day, where visitors could bring two non-perishable items before 2 p.m. and receive free admission, or bring four items and save $10 off a ride bracelet; College Night, where college students received free admission and entrance into a special concert; and Military Appreciation Day, where all past and present military members received free admission into the fair.
One interesting fact about Champlain Valley Fair is that it is part of the Champlain Valley Exposition, which is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1922. The exposition owns the 130 acres that houses the fair every year. Board members work together to bring the public an agriculture fair that is relevant and open to new trends, such as organic farming and specialty products. Additionally, there are more than 300 seasonal workers who help with jobs such as security, clean up during and after the fair, setting up the midway and parking cars.
Midway and Entertainment
Strates Shows provided 40 rides on the midway. Ride tickets could be purchased for $0.50 each and wristbands were available for $30.
There were 70 food vendors. Some of the favorite fair treats this year included Brazilian barbecue, gourmet mac and cheese and loaded tater tots.
Grandstand entertainment was a big draw for visitors. Champlain Valley Fair has featured many famous entertainers in the past; some of the fair's visiting performers have included The Beach Boys, Alabama, Willie Nelson, the Glen Miller Orchestra, Britney Spears, Reba McEntire, Anne Murray and Ray Price.
Though there were 21 concerts on the grounds, a few of the most popular concerts this year included performances by Rick Springfield, Billy Currington and The Machine: Pink Floyd Tribute Band.
Comedian Gabriel Iglesias was also said to have sold the most amount of tickets out of all the nights.
Aside from the numerous concerts, fairgoers could also check out more than 100 vendors and other entertainment that included the monster truck show, a circus extravaganza, the butterfly encounter, Heritage Village, the McKenzie Racing Pigs, Old McDonald's Farm, auto racing, the demolition derby and the freestyle motocross championship.
Bartley says two new acts this year that were very popular included Wildlife Wendy, who provided an up-close and personal encounter with varying bird species; and the Human Cannonball, which consisted of a family of daredevil acrobats performing a thrill show for the crowds.
Champlain Valley Fair has continued to grow, despite its share of challenges over the years – challenges such as an intense storm in July of 1941 that leveled the fair's cattle barn, or the fire that destroyed the original grandstand in 1965. Fortunately, the grandstand was quickly rebuilt in 1966.
For 2018, there was a concern with safety and safety is always a priority. According to news reports, there was a scare on the grounds when a juvenile teen male was spotted running around waving what appeared to be a gun. The Essex police and fair security stayed right on top of the issue and handled the situation quickly and efficiently. The juvenile was found to be wielding an air pistol and was arrested with various charges including reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and assault.
When asked what he thought some obstacles have been for the fair, Bartley says he feels that costs, labor and utility costs in general are skyrocketing.
“We are trying to keep the value of the fair and also keep it cost affordable for the community,” he says. “This issue is not unique to us. But we try to focus on what we can do to keep the prices reasonable.” He also cites how the agriculture industry is changing all the time, which can be complicated.
“Dairy is getting decimated and we have to think of things to do to help the economy grow,” he says. “There are a lot of moving parts involved.”
The way the fair markets itself also continues to change. Bartley says the fair board works with a varied budget every year and uses the budget to market through whatever avenue makes the most sense, though he admits that marketing campaigns have definitely become more technology-driven in recent years. Attracting younger generations of fairgoers has also been a focus.
“We used more digital advertising this year and college night was very successful,” Bartley says. “We learned a lot this year to help us become more efficient.
“We continue to try to find ways to bring the family in,” he continues. “We are investing in technology apps, et cetera, but we want to keep our roots. There is something for everyone to see at the fair and we also want to continue to reach out to families.”