That’s a wrap: 98th State Fair concludes

HARRINGTON — The 98th iteration of the Delaware State Fair is in the books.

Undaunted by the threat of rain, a large crowd turned out Saturday for the final day of the fair, where attendees ate fried foods, rode carnival rides and meandered through the animal barns.

The festival, which began with a kickoff concert featuring Jon Pardi and Chris Lane July 19, featured dozens of things to do and see.

“We always have fun at the fair,” said Milford resident Carol Fry.

She was accompanied Saturday by her husband, Barry, and grandson Tanner Murray. Tanner enjoyed the animals, rides and games, said Mr. Fry, who especially liked the 4-H and FFA exhibits.

The Frys treat the fair as an annual tradition and, like many people, they have been going to it since it was much smaller.

Kids ride the roller coaster on the Midway at the Delaware State Fair. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The duo estimated they have been coming to the event for more than 60 years, recalling the days before the blacktop surface, when the fair was “dirt barns and dirt roads and dust or mud.”

The sky was gray and cloudy, and rain appeared to loom on the horizon, but plenty of people still turned out Saturday to play games, browse the vendor booths and look at the many animals.

Rain storms moved out of the area in time for the Delaware State Fair final night of rides, cotton candy and concerts. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Not only did the weather not scare off Toby and Patricia French, but they came specifically because of the cooler temperatures and potential afternoon showers.

“We were hoping the weather would keep the crowds down,” Ms. French said.

A women prepares to hit another driver while riding the bumper cars at the Delaware Sate Fair on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We actually played the weather,” Mr. French added. “So if it’s not actually raining, but kind of cool and like this, wouldn’t be as big of a crowd.”

Saturday was quite a change weather-wise from just a few days before. After some of the hottest days of the year at the beginning of the fair, it cooled down at the end of last week, with rain on Friday and Saturday.

About 263,000 people attended the fair last year, a decrease of about 48,000 from the year before. The fair attributed that decline to sweltering hear, and it remains to be seen if this year’s mark will surpass last year’s figure.

Not everyone is enthralled with the fair, however.

Richard McIntyre competes in the tractor pull at the Delaware Sate Fair on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Nancy Welch, of Magnolia, said ticket prices ($9.50 for an adult and $4.50 for a child for one day) were too high and the fair has become less community-oriented.

“It’s not like the fair it used to be, no,” Ms. Welch said.

But for many people, including some non-Delawareans, the annual celebration of Delaware agriculture is something to look forward to.

George and JoAnn Lovett, who own homes in both Middletown and Chesapeake City, Maryland, have been coming since 1967. Asked why they return year after year, Ms. Lovett had a simple answer: “We’re farmers.”

Others come for different reasons. The Frenches, for instance, attend mainly to try the fried junk food.

Michael Gaul of Milford rides the mechanical bull at the Delaware Sate Fair on Saturday.

 

A mom carries her tired son on a cool and windy day at the Delaware Sate Fair on Saturday.

“Once a year, I have my corndogs,” Mr. French said with a laugh.

They made their annual trek from Seaford Saturday and munched on fried dough and other treats at the fair.

In the Delmarva Building, a judge examined different birds and quizzed their owners as part of the youth poultry showmanship event.

Gerald Carroll, of Bridgeville, won a first-place award for his mallard duck, Shelly. The judge was mainly looking to see how much participants knew about their birds and how the handled them, Gerald said, holding the 11-month-old duck in his arms.

It was his second year entering the contest, but he said he has been around ducks for a long time, having grown up on a farm.

For those who could not attend the fair or are already missing its attractions, look at the bridge side: There are less than 365 days until the 99th Delaware State Fair.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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