By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Pretty good. Those are the words vendors at the fair used to describe the churn of local cash at the Elkhart County fairgrounds last week.
“It’s been pretty steady all week,” said Brenda Gilsinger, who was busy at her yard and farm implement booth. The booth also sells branded John Deere merchandise.
“I think things are going well,” she said. “There are a lot more lookers who take more time before making a purchase.”
The same positive attitude was in place across the commercial area and food vendor booths.
“We have had a good crowd all day long,” said Joe Stevens, who was making pancakes in the kitchen at the Exchange Club of Elkhart County booth. “I think the weather has helped. Our daily average is up slightly and Sunday (July 21) was huge.”
The club holds the ice concession at the fair, so when it’s hot out, ice sales climb. The drought and heat of last year resulted in a record sales year for the club, according to Stevens and as of Thursday he thought sales were on pace to equal 2012’s.
Across “food row” the temptation of the smell of freshly barbecued chicken attracted many fairgoers to the Nelson’s Barbecue location. Dick Armington was in charge there and it was his first fair adventure.
“They tell me there is a direct correlation between the economy and attendance,” Armington said. “Although there might be an element that has a bigger factor on the fair attendance, and that’s the weather. Starting with Sunday the weather has been incredible. I think you have the combination of beautiful weather and the improving economy in Elkhart County, so we are having a really good week.”
The Miller family of Middlebury was helping boost Armington’s bottom line. Carol Miller said she brought four children to the fair. By the time she payed entrance fees and bought ride wristbands, she had handed over $150. And she was spending more cash at Nelson’s for some cold drinks.
“It’s good for the people at the fair,” Miller said of the spending.
She said she enjoys taking her children to the fair to enjoy all the sights, sounds and smells. “I think it’s worth it. It’s a family outing,” she said.
Blake Huston is glad there are people like Miller who want to spend locally on entertainment. Huston is the manager of the North American Midway Entertainment unit that provided the rides and midway attractions at the fair.
“You can tell people here have a little more disposable income than other areas,” he said.
He said his company provides midway services in larger markets, but in some of those markets population numbers don’t translate into cash income. In Goshen, the fair has widespread community support, according to Huston, and that helps draw people to the fairgrounds to buy ride wristbands and play midway games. And this year, the community has packed the fair. As of Thursday Huston was thinking the company had its income goal in sight.
“We are up over last year just a tick,” he said after walking across the midway. “The way we are going, we are looking forward to having a record year here.”