2010-08-05 / Scene

112 years of fair fun

Eastern Michigan Fair is next week
810-452-2609 •

Fair Manager Ian Kempf stands in front of the electronic fairgrounds sign earlier this week. Photo by Emily Caswell Fair Manager Ian Kempf stands in front of the electronic fairgrounds sign earlier this week. Photo by Emily Caswell IMLAY CITY — Death defying stunts, an American Idol and alligators are the highlights of this year’s Eastern Michigan Fair, noon-11 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10- Saturday, Aug. 14.

And those just happen to be the events that fair manager Ian Kempf is most excited about.

With more than a decade of experience planning the Eastern Michigan Fair and managing the fairgrounds, Kempf is a good judge of what will draw crowds.

The No. 1 draw being: affordability.

When Kempf took on the parttime position as fair manager, one of the first things he did was change the way the fair charged customers.

He said he took a look at what some of the most successful family get-away spots, like Disney Land, Cedar Point and Six Flags, were doing to draw a crowd. The common denominator? One price admission.

So, Kempf and the fair board made the decision to charge just one fee for all of the fun the Eastern Michigan Fair offers. This year that cost is $15, $8 for seniors between noon-5 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, free for kids 2 years old and younger and $8 for kids ages 12 and younger before 5 p.m. on Kids Day, which is Tuesday, Aug. 10.

“We’re by far the best value going,” said Kempf.

Admission includes parking, unlimited rides, access to all of the grandstand shows, the 4-H and FAA exhibits, petting zoo, circus and live entertainment including the main act, a performance by former American Idol contestant Bucky Covington at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11.

Like last year’s performers, Covington will perform right in the center of the midway.

“Everybody liked it,” said Kempf. “The concert is going to be really a good concert.”

Following the Easter Michigan Fair, Covington heads to Indiana to headline the Indiana State Fair.

“I think that’s kinda neat,” added Kempf. “That’s saying something about the quality of entertainment we’re bringing to the fairgrounds.”

Also sure to be a big draw this year is the Alligator Encounter, which families can check out during the fair in a tent located near the fair office.

“That’s something brand new,” said Kempf. “Their emphasis is on education ... That’s a real handson exhibit.”

During Tuesday’s truck and tractor pull at 7 p.m. the crowd will be amazed as stunt man Isaac the Greek performs a death defying act. He will be strapped in a cargo van and dropped from 10 stories.

“You just don’t know what’s gonna happen,” said Kempf. “That’s why we all love stunt men.”

This year the circus will feature white tigers and as they did last year the 4-H and FAA exhibits will feature live births throughout the fair week.

Fun at the Eastern Michigan Fair will also include games, a daily bike raffle for kids — including a fully-restored 1979 Schwinn Stingray — a beverage tent for adults and plenty of food, including a new doughnut burger offered at the Lions Club food booth. The doughnut burger is pretty much what it sounds like, a 1/3 pound burger, cheese and bacon with a glazed doughnut for the bun.

“This is an item that has caught on at a number of state fairs around the U.S.,” said Lions member Terry Gebhardt. “It’s strange and different, but it will catch people’s attention.”

Along with the food and fun what Kempf is hoping really catches people’s attention is the state of the fairgrounds themselves. His fun comes from hearing families comment on the cleanliness of the grounds.

“That’s where I (get) my personal satisfaction,” he said.

Details: www.easternmichiganfair. com or 810-724-4145.

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