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York Fair Changing with the Times
Deggeller Attractions signs four year contract extension with fair
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York Fair is one of the country's most prominent fairs and has quite the history.

Known as America's first fair, the York Fair was held in the historic old town of York in 1765. It is said that the traditions of the fairs in the New World first began with the York Fair, which at that time existed as a two-day agricultural market that took place on the town commons.

Marching Forward
The York Fair has transformed in many ways over the years, moving from different sites and expanding its size and length of days. The 250-year-old fair has been held in September for more than 75 years, but all that may change in the future.

According to a recent article on York Daily Record, talks have been ongoing with fair management about pushing back the date to July or August. This potential change would be due to several reasons, including the fact that school would not be in session at this time, and the fair board is looking for ways to increase attendance and expand business opportunities.

Some patrons are concerned that moving the fair to an earlier date would cause the heat to be a deterrent. Others like the idea that the fair wouldn't clash with school sessions. If the dates of the fair are pushed back, the changes will take place as soon as 2020. This issue has been discussed just as Michael Froehlich, CEO of the York Fair and York Expo Center, is beginning to relinquish his duties to Bryan Blair, former general manager at Elkhart County 4-H fair and Agricultural Exposition in Goshen, Indiana. Froehlich has more than 40 years of experience in the industry and will retire in December.

Brianna Holmes, Communications Director for York Fair, says Blair has plans to focus on heavily promoting the York Expo Center and expanding the presence of the facility within the community and region. He aims to accomplish this through maintaining existing business and pursuing new opportunities.
“Bryan has extensive experience and knowledge in the fair industry,” Holmes says. “With more than 20 fairs under his belt, we feel confident that his leadership will continue to guide the York Fair down the right path.”

Admission and Attendance
Since its inception, the York Fair has continued to prove successful, though this year things were a bit discouraging in the beginning. The 2018 York Fair ran from Sept. 7 through Sept. 18. Attendance was 450,173 compared to last year's turnout of 565,483. Part of the reason for the lower turnout was the rain that fell the first five days of the fair – more than 4.5 inches of rain definitely put a damper on things as the threat of rain was present for several days. However, when the downpour ceased, out came the crowds.

Admission was $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 6 through 18 and free for children 5 and under. Individual fair-long passes were available for $75.

Midway Fun
Holmes says that a new four-year contract with Deggeller Attractions was also just signed. There were 27 rides on the main midway and 23 rides featured in Kiddieland. Some of the most popular included the Chance Century Wheel, Chance Giant Wheel, Huss Super Nova, Wild Mouse roller coaster and the Hydra. Penn Wood Shows also supplemented Kiddieland and the main midway with six rides of their own.

“We are eager to continue our outstanding relationship with the Deggellers through the 2022 York Fair,” shares Holmes.

Fair food is one of the main draws and this year there were more than 100 different food options with 15 new food vendors. Some of the options included stuffed pretzels, maple bacon funnel cakes, gyros, barbecue, fried Oreos and sticky buns.

Activities included shows such as the Flying Pages, monster truck show, demolition derby, the Firefighter Training Show, Kona Ice's Ninja Experience, Rhinestone Roper and Discover the Dinosaurs. Fairgoers had the opportunity to check out grandstand entertainment such as Seasame Street Live, MercyMe, the American Idol Live Tour and 5SOS.

The community pavilion was a new fair feature. The pavilion featured different cultural days of activities such as local musicians day, Greek/Alps/German Day, Irish Culture Day, African-American Culture Day, Patriot's Day, Russian Culture Day, Asian Culture Day, Hawaii and Native American Culture Day, Feria Latina Day and Local Dancer's Day. Fiera Latina Day was such a tremendous success that the fair board is looking to expand the event in 2019.

The Ag Education Center also continues to be a success, and bodes well for continuing agricultural education at fairs. The center provides children with hands-on agriculture learning opportunities.

“It proved to be one of the most popular areas during the fair this year, and illustrates how people have a desire to learn more about agriculture in our world,” says Holmes.

In the future, the fair board aims to maintain the history and traditions of York Fair while implementing new events and opportunities. There have been a variety of challenges in addition to the changes on the horizon.

Aging facilities and infrastructure continue to be a challenge, like many fairgrounds experience across the country.

“Many of our challenges arise from buildings that date back to the 1800s that often provide a unique set of circumstances,” says Holmes. “We also face the challenge of keeping the fair relevant to millennials and Generation X'ers and their families.”

One way the fair does this is through advertising. “This year we incorporated a good amount of the budget towards social media,” Holmes says. “However, we continue to target several outlets such as TV and print. We've recently worked with local media and platforms such as Spotify to hit the demographics we are targeting. We are also evaluating all of our web and social media presences, and have made an effort to enhance those areas with the staff addition of the first full-time communications director in the history of the fair.”
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