Sometimes it just all comes together. That’s what happened this year for organizers and volunteers of the 2013 Elkhart County 4-H Fair that concluded Saturday night after a wonderful nine-day run.
Honestly, this newspaper considers the 2013 edition of the fair one of the best in recent memory, with each highlight seemingly punctuated with another. That’s high praise considering the fair is one of the largest of its kind in the country, and its board and staff put on a world-class event year after year.
Even with an ominous start on July 19 — temperatures in the high 90s drove a record-low attendance for an opening day — cool, pleasant Canadian air and clear skies arrived and settled over the fairgrounds for most of the week. Two record attendance days — 39,296 on Monday and 46,718 on Wednesday — helped pave the way for the strongest paid fair attendance since 2008.
As usual, the grandstand entertainment was outstanding, with another special emphasis placed on the power of popular country music. The country duo Florida Georgia Line, perhaps the hottest act out of Nashville currently, attracted an estimated crowd of 11,000 to its show Monday night. Goshen News Entertainment Editor Scott Weisser, who has covered the fair for the past 20 years, called the Florida Georgia Line show one of the largest grandstand shows he can remember as far as attendance.
The up-and-coming group comprised of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, already has two Academy of Country Music Awards, two CMT Music Awards and is the first act to top the country airplay charts with their first two singles. Oh yeah, the next night country legend Vince Gill took the grandstand stage. Another up-and-comer, Hunter Hayes, drew at least 9,000 people on Wednesday.
While bringing in hot entertainment acts is a big part of the fair, the local faces and personalities make up the foundation of its success.
If you read the Goshen News this week, you got to know 10-year 4-H’er Daniel L. Gongwer who raised a Guernsey cow and will head to Purdue next month.
You got to know Sara Granberg, a fair board member who helps with Young McDonald’s Farm.
And you got to know Sierra Walter, a Fairfield High School graduate and 10-year 4-H member living with cystic fibrosis, who was crowned fair queen, barrel raced during Friday night’s rodeo, raced a four-wheeler on Saturday and had the grand champion dairy goat that sold at auction for a fair record $17,000. Walter, who will attend Ivy Tech in Warsaw, said she is donating part of her auction money to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Speaking of the 4-H auction, history was set on Friday. For the first time ever, the auction topped the $1 million mark, bringing in $1,042,127. What a week.
Congratulations to Fair Board President Tim Graber, the entire fair board and every volunteer, participant and attendee who made this year’s fair one of the best ever. Take a deep breath and then take a well-deserved bow.