The chilly air that has been noticeable in recent days can mean only two things: fall is near and so is the Surry County Agricultural Fair.
Although autumn doesn’t officially arrive until late this month, the 2017 county fair will get under way Thursday at Veterans Memorial Park on West Lebanon Street in Mount Airy.
The fair, in its 70th year, will continue through next Monday.
One thing readily noticeable is that this five-day run will be shorter than local fairs of previous years — which were eight days long in both 2016 and 2015.
The shortened fair is due to scheduling factors involving the company that provides rides and other carnival attractions, according to Katherine Thorpe, who is co-chairing the event on behalf of the local American Legion Auxiliary.
Powers and Thomas Midway Entertainment, based in Wilmington, was the provider at the local fair for the first time last year, and Thorpe is glad to have the company touted for its “state of the art” and wide variety of rides back again.
However, Powers and Thomas Midway Entertainment’s presence in Mount Airy had to be sandwiched between a fair in Pennsylvania and the upcoming Rowan County Fair.
To coin a phrase, Thorpe hopes that while this year’s Surry fair is shorter, it will be sweeter, with much fun and amusement packed into the five days.
It is sponsored by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion and their auxiliaries, along with Veterans Memorial Park Inc.
“Last year we had about 15,000,” Thorpe said of fair attendance.
Acrobatics among attractions
The gates open at 3:30 Thursday to welcome the 2017 Surry County Agricultural Fair, with the midway activities starting at 4 p.m.
On Friday, the gates will open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for special-needs and kindergarten attendees, with the midway to open at 4 p.m.
The schedule calls for the gates to open both Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 and the midway entertainment to begin at 2 p.m.
On Monday, the gates will open at 3:30 p.m. and the midway at 4 p.m.
Thorpe said several special attractions will be offered this year in addition to the carnival rides, games, exhibits and snack items such as cotton candy normally associated with a county fair, including:
• Hansen’s Spectacular Acrobatic Sensations, a family group that will present multiple shows each day of the fair, at 6 and 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Monday and 4, 6 and 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It specializes in aerial maneuvers, high-speed juggling, trampoline stunts and more.
• Powers & Thomas Midway Entertainment’s lineup of thrill rides, family rides and kiddie rides. Some of its rides are said to be unique to the carnival industry, including the 1957 Chevy-themed Italian-built Swing Buggy thrill ride and Quadzilla, a family ride that is one of only two in the U.S.
• Two wrestling shows on both Friday and Saturday at 7 and 8:30 p.m.
• Fireworks every day of the fair, at 9 p.m. on Thursday and Monday and 10 p.m. the other three days.
The fair official added that a popular feature of the local event will be continued this year, a special Carload Night on Monday.
For the price of $40, a carload of fair-goers will be provided gate admission, unlimited-ride armbands and access to the entertainment events.
At other times, one-price unlimited ride armbands will cost $25, but Thorpe pointed out that coupons can be found at various businesses around town which reduce that to $20.
Tickets for rides also may be bought separately.
General admission prices for the fair are $6 for adults, $3 for seniors 62 and over and free for children ages 4-10 who are with a paying adult. That will not include rides, but access to the entertainment events and exhibit and animal areas.
Animals and exhibits
Thorpe said an emphasis on having a well-rounded fair engaging many elements of the community, including schools, will be continued for 2017.
That includes the more-educational and cultural aspects of the event, including agriculture.
“We’re still looking for exhibits,” Thorpe said at last report.
The fair plans include judging of entries in categories such as canned food, arts and crafts, baked goods, clothing, fine arts/photography and others.
Exhibit entry booth setups are continuing today from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
More livestock exhibits also are eyed this year, according to Thorpe, who is agricultural coordinator for the fair in addition to its co-manager.
This will include competitions in such categories as beef/dairy cattle, swine, sheep, goats, chicken and rabbits.
Thorpe said improvements have been made to the stable areas at Veterans Memorial Park to stimulate additional animal entries.
Complete information about the various fair contests and rules and other details are available from fair information booklets that can be accessed online (at surrycountyagfair.org).
“Hopefully, we’ll have good weather,” Thorpe said.