And, yes, free pig races, too
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent July 17, 2013 8:08PM
Amy White hoses off the asphalt Tuesday as the Valpo Hot Dog Man booth prepares for the opening of the Porter County Fair. White said the vendor has been coming to the fair for 34 years. | Post-Tribune photo
The 163rd annual Porter County Fair runs from Thursday through July 27 at the fairgrounds, 217 E. Division Road, Valparaiso. Admission is $6 for everyone 10 and up, and free for those under 10. Admission is free for all before noon every day.
For more information and a complete schedule, go to www.portercountyfair.com.
Updated: August 19, 2013 3:48PM
VALPARAISO — The midway was quiet earlier this week.
No clanging of change for lemon shake-ups and elephant ears. No cheers after winning a gigantic stuffed bear at a carnival game. No whirring sounds from fast-paced, spinning rides.
That all changes Thursday, when the 163rd Porter County Fair gets under way.
Other things change, too.
“We have an almost entirely new lineup of free entertainment,” said Kevin Hannon, in his third year as the fair’s manager, adding there’s another area for free entertainment this year, on the east end of the fairground by the horse barn.
The new group includes Matt’s Family Jam from Branson, Mo., though the leader of the group came to the fair 15 years ago, as well as Granpa Cratchet, a puppet show that also roams the fairground.
There’s also Team Rock, extreme martial arts performers, and Rise Above, a BMX bike show.
Some things don’t change. The Swifty Swine Pig Races are back by popular demand.
“People always ask me, are we having the pig races this year?” said Lori Neumeier, the fair’s free grounds entertainment manager.
She attends a conference in Las Vegas each December with other managers from the fair to scope out new entertainment, and relies on tips from concessionaires that travel to different fairs as well.
“We want variety,” she said, adding fairgoers who come to the fair repeatedly each season want to see new entertainment.
The quiet on the midway was relative. Hannon said the carnival workers and food vendors began arriving for set-up on Sunday, and commercial vendors showed up Wednesday.
“One of the hidden things is, we have over 100 camping spots and every one is full,” he said, adding the temporary residents work on the midway and include 4-H families in the horse and pony show. “If we had 50 more spots, we could probably sell them all.”
Vendors were getting ready, too. Lisa Albers cleaned her cotton candy and caramel apple trailer to get ready for the fair. She’s also one of the owners of a nearby pizza vendor.
Albers, who’s from south of Oklahoma City, said she’s been coming to the fair since 2008. She travels as far south as Laredo, Texas, during fair season, but Valparaiso is her northernmost stop.
“Everybody is nice up here, and it is cooler for us,” she said, as the thermostat hovered around 90 degrees and the sun beat down on the midway. “It’s about 102 at home, so it’s a little cooler for us.”