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Annual county fair transforms Crown Point site

Workers attach baskets Ferris wheel ready it for launch Lake County Fair. | Carrie Napoleon~for Sun-Times Media

Workers attach the baskets to the Ferris wheel to ready it for the launch of the Lake County Fair. | Carrie Napoleon~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 31, 2014 6:29AM



CROWN POINT — The Lake County Fairgrounds was hopping with activity Tuesday as vendors set up booths and rides, and exhibitors brought in their wares for the 162nd annual Lake County Fair.

Linda Navarro smiled with pride as she entered three of her paintings for exhibit in the Family Arts & Crafts building.

“It’s exciting,” she said.

Navarro, of Dyer, began to paint when she retired 18 months ago and this will be the first time her work, of places such as the Old Methodist Church in Gary, will be exhibited.

“I just thought it would be really nice to enter my work, ” she said.

Navarro said she has been calling her friends and put out notice on Facebook her work would be on display.

“It feels good,” said a clearly pleased Navarro as her paintings were being hung.

While volunteers checked in exhibits for display in the Family Arts & Crafts building, trucks moved supplies and equipment around the grounds. Midway workers attached baskets to the Ferris wheel that soon would provide a bird’s eye view of the entire fairgrounds. Other workers stocked stuffed animals and readied the games to attract the attention of people walking by.

Kyle Labicki, of Griffith, and Jesse Medina, of Hammond, were part of a team putting the finishing touches on The Eatery Hut booths. The two were hanging a huge banner boasting turkey legs atop one of the company’s main food booths and working fast to beat the threatening clouds overhead.

They say it will likely take three days to get all the booths in order and ready to open Friday.

“It’s fun,” Medina said of working at the fair each year. “I enjoy meeting all the new people.”

A little rain was not enough to put a damper on the setup. They continued to work as big drops of rain started to fall.

Arlene Marcinek, fair secretary, said rain is the one four-letter word fair organizers do not want to hear in the coming 10 days.

“Everything is based on the weather,” she said. The forecast calls for possible showers on a few of the days, but overall the temperatures are expected to be moderate, a boon for attendance.

Last year 221,713 people attended the fair, up 12,500 from 2012. Marcinek said the fair had a few rain days last year, but temperatures were moderate, which always means more visitors.

She said the historic fairgrounds and the urban and rural split of Lake County create an interesting event. Organizers work to showcase the rural aspect of county life while providing activities and entertainment thought to draw urban residents.

“We are pretty unique. We have to have something for everybody,” Marcinek said.

This year the fair board has installed a new public announcement system at the fairgrounds that can alert fairgoers to severe weather and the need to take cover. Marcinek said the new system will cut over all other broadcasting systems at the fairgrounds including the grandstand with any necessary emergency announcement. Public announcements also can be heard in all the fair buildings.

“It’s important for safety,” she said.



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