WELLINGTON — An annual tradition resumes today with the official beginning of the 169th Lorain County Fair.
Setup, which began about two weeks ago, was completed around midnight Sunday, according to Kim Meyers, fair president. Setup includes erecting about 80 tents over two days on the approximately 150-acre fairgrounds.
Tent size ranges from 10 by 10 feet to 60 by 40 feet. The grounds also include 500 camper spaces for fairgoers and 500 spaces for workers.
“We basically build a city in two weeks,” Meyers said. “It’s quite a process.”
Roughly 500 vendors are participating in the fair, which concludes Aug. 24. They pay an average of between $1,000 and $1,500 based on location, size of the space and sales volume.
Meyers said he sends out contracts in February to vendors with assigned lot numbers which are stenciled into the grounds in July.
Meyers, president since November 2012 and on the 21-member fair board since 2004, said the fair’s family atmosphere extends to vendors. He spent part of Sunday walking the grounds off Herrick Avenue greeting vendors, some of whom were setting up equipment.
They included Harry Faint, owner of Faint’s Concessions and Bozich Food Service. Faint’s booth serves stromboli.
Faint, who has been attending the fair since 1984, said the fair board and staff have been “amazingly consistent” in running the fair efficiently. Faint, who said he also attends fairs in Holmes, Mahoning, Medina and Summit counties as well as events at the IX Center in Cleveland, said the Lorain County Fair is the biggest moneymaker for his company.
“It’s just extremely well run,” he said. “I’m very honored that they have us back every year.”
Tim “Big Dog” Graham of Wellington-based Big Dog Catering, also said he was glad to be back. Like Faint, Graham said the fair is a big moneymaker for his business.
Besides sales, the event helps promote the catering business.
“We make a lot of friends,” said Graham, who has had a booth at the fair since 2000.
Graham said setup and the pace of the fair can be “grueling” but most of his workers are experienced and used to it.
“I’ve got great help,” he said. “My people are fantastic.”
Some vendors, or those people displaying animals, have attended the fair since they were children. They include Tammy Cruz, 28, who said she has been attending since 1993.
Cruz’s family owns Wright’s Haflingers, a Wellington horse farm displaying 19 ponies.
Cruz, whose hands were covered with soap from helping wash a pony, said her family all pitches in. Cruz brought along her two daughters, Amari, 6, and Gabi, 4, to learn how to clean, display and ride horses.
“They’ve both been doing it since they were 2 years old, so they’re getting pretty good at it,” Cruz said. “My kids have the choice to say no when they want to say no, but I want to give them that opportunity.”
While the fair officially begins today, it was open to the public Sunday. Hundreds of people took advantage of free admission to walk the grounds, view displays and eat.
Among them was Elyria resident Scott Emery. Emery, 50, said he’s been coming to the fair since he was a child. He came Sunday with his wife Sheila, and daughters Nilani, 2, and Yadieliz, 12.
Emery said his family has also attended fairs in Cuyahoga, Erie, Huron and Summit counties. He said each has its charms, but Lorain’s has the biggest displays of animals, which the children love.
“She loves to hug them,” Emery said of Nilani. “She’ll go up to a horse and give it a big hug.”