Porter County Fair begins its 10-day run
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent July 20, 2012 9:14AM
A pair of North American Midway employees replace bulbs in the welcome sign at the Porter County Fairgrounds Thursday July 19, 2012. The 162nd version of the fair officially opened it's annual run amidst cloudy skies and cooler temperatures. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
For a complete schedule of events for the 162nd annual Porter County Fair, which continues through July 28, go to www.portercofair.org.
VALPARAISO — Carly Culkin tried her hand at the baseball toss on the midway at the Porter County Fair Thursday, hitting 43 mph and garnering an inflatable baseball bat as a prize.
Carly and her friends Bethany Collins and Chayton Burkhart are all 12 and all from Chesterton.
“We are like sisters,” Bethany said. Chayton interjected that the trio have been friends since kindergarten before Bethany continued. “We just came to hang out. We go everywhere together, pretty much.”
The fair is a big draw as a place to hang out.
“We like all the rides and the food, and we see a lot of people here,” Chayton said.
The sounds of carnival rides and games, the smells of deep-fried food, and the 4-H dog obedience and showmanship contests in the Livestock Arena kicked off the 162nd annual Porter County Fair on Thursday.
Much about the event, which draws an estimated 175,000 visitors during its 10-day span, remained the same from last year, though there have been a few changes.
Those include updating the fair’s emergency action plan, in light of the stage collapse last August during high winds at the Indiana State Fair as a Sugarland concert was set to begin. Seven people died and dozens more were injured.
“We went back through it and developed an evacuation plan for the grandstand,” said Kevin Hannon, the fair’s general manager. The plan includes using the fairgrounds’ public-address system to notify the crowd in case of inclement weather. “We haven’t changed a lot but we are more aware than we were a year ago.”
Other changes at the grandstand for general safety include handrails, as well as raised railings at the front of the grandstand.
As far as the rest of the fairgrounds, the Park Place Pavilion was remodeled and the picnic area between the pavilion and the 4-H building is larger.
The fair queen pageant, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, will be in the grandstand instead of the pavilion. The pageant, which features 17 young women this year, outgrew the pavilion, Hannon said.
“I think the kids will be excited to be on the big stage,” he said.
Thursday’s Luke Ryan performance at the grandstand sold out, and Hannon expects ticket sales for Larry the Cable Guy on Saturday, and the band Hot Chelle Rae on Sunday, to be strong.
The prices remain the same. Parking at the fair is free and admission is $5 for those 10 and up, and free for children under age 10. Admission is free for everyone on weekdays before 1 p.m., and free on weekends before 10 a.m.
The whole scene is familiar to Kate Gorski, 15, a seven-year member of 4-H. Taking a break after showing her miniature Australian shepherd Dolly in the dog show, the Valparaiso High School sophomore also shows horses at the fair.
“It’s so fun. You get to see all our friends you don’t get to see at school, and I just like showing,” Gorski said.