Centennial Delaware State Fair opens: Attendees brave heat for tons of fun

Parade participants from 4-H wave to spectators during the parade on opening day at the Delaware State Fair on Thursday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

HARRINGTON — One hundred years, a name change and many different types of entertainment acts later, the Delaware State Fair is still as vibrant as ever.

This year’s fair began Thursday during one of the hottest days of the year so far with more than 90-degree weather and a heat index of over 100 degrees.

“As I walked up this afternoon, I saw Secretary [Michael] Scuse and he looked at me and said, ‘It must be fair week, it’s over 90 degrees.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, and if it’s raining tonight, then we really know it’s fair week,’” Gov. John Carney said Thursday afternoon.

But avid fairgoers braved the summer heat to visit the fair on opening day during its centennial year.

“The fair is actually a tradition for us. I used to spend my summers with my grandfather. And with it being the 100th year of the fair, it’s even more sentimental,” Zakiyah Henry of North Carolina said as she sat with her grandfather, James Henry, under the shade near the food court shortly after the fair gates opened.

Dave Jones, center, was honored for 46 years of service by Delaware State Fair general manager Bill DiMondi, left, and fair president Ron Draper during the centennial celebration opening ceremonies Thursday.

Mr. Henry, who lives in Milford, said he was happy to enjoy the fair with Ms. Henry and plans on bringing his wife back later to enjoy the fair again and again.

“I like eating and walking. And I notice some of the music. Plus you meet people and make new friends,” he said.

Other regular fairgoers might look forward to the exhibitions that can be seen throughout the week, like Grace Poe of Bridgeville.

Ms. Poe entered 34 fine arts items in the fair this year and earned five first place awards, nine second place awards and one third place award, she said.

“I really love the arts and crafts part. I like to see if I beat myself from the previous year,” she added. “I like seeing what everybody else created because it helps grow your creativity.”

Those who visited Thursday were greeted with a special admission price of just $5 each and a few special activities, like the grand opening of DNREC’s newly renovated building featuring live animals and more space to accommodate eager families.

Kendra Walker with Red Head Express performs on the Plaza stage.

“By far, Delaware has one of the best fairs in the United States and with each year it only gets better. I encourage everyone to join our staff to celebrate the history and the accomplishments of the 100th Delaware State Fair,” Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse said. “This is an opportunity for Delawareans and visitors to learn about Delaware agriculture and all it does for our consumers and our economy. Take time to walk through the livestock barns to see the wide variety of animals that our young people are showing. Take time to ask questions and learn where your food comes from. Getting to see a dairy cow up close helps make the connection that milk comes from a cow.”

Other groups also use the Delaware State Fair as a way to educate the public of new developments. Delaware’s Department of Elections brought along new voting machines, for example, for the public to test out before the presidential primaries in April.

Entertainment continued to draw out the crowd as Sugarland with Drew Parker prepared to perform the night away before fireworks lit up the sky to celebrate opening day.

Over the next nine days, Reba McEntire, Brothers Osborne with Jackson Dean, Dan+Shay with Filmore, Bethel Music with Stars Go Dim, ventriloquist Darci Lynne, Brantley Gilbert with Cale Dodds, Gladys Knight, Jojo Siwa with The Belles and Jake Owen with Seaforth will top the entertainment lineup.

Spectators watch the Budweiser Clydesdales in the parade.

Harness racing and the demolition derby will return as fan favorites to the Delaware State Fair.

“The Delaware State Fair is an amazing institution here in our state,” said Gov. Carney, who has been coming to the fair for around 25 years now. “It’s so successful, mostly because it’s about family and tradition. Family, farm families in particular, are as strong as they’ve ever been and our farm family tradition is as strong as it’s ever been here in our state. And it all comes together here on an annual basis here at the Delaware State Fair.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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