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Wet weather dampens fair attendance

August 24, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Franklin County Fair is a celebration of agriculture's contribution to the county, but the wet weather that has helped turn parched fields green again this week has been keeping fairgoers away in droves.

Monday night as Fair Queen Katy Mitchell was being crowned, the arena was empty, the carnival rides dark and motionless and few strolled the midway as a heavy rain fell.

"The crowd was basically what was in the tent," said Gerald W. Reichard, the fair's general secretary. The fair usually attracts 20,000 or more during the week, he said.

A number of events have been canceled, including Monday's horse pull, Tuesday's performance by country singer Michael Peterson and Thursday's lawn tractor pull, Reichard said. Plans were to reschedule tractor pull classes postponed from Wednesday and try and combine them with another tractor pull today beginning at 5:30 p.m., he said.

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"That's going to depend on the weather and the track conditions and the availability of pullers," Reichard said.

Those expecting premium checks from competitions and judged exhibits will have to wait, according to Reichard.

"We will not distribute premium checks until further notice," he said. "We'll have to look at the creditors and see who we can pay what."

Expenses for the 2006 fair totaled $102,465.55, but the event ended in the black, taking in $108,206.58, according to the fair program. That allowed the fair committee to pay off some of a $20,000 loan it had taken out, he said.

The biggest source of income was admissions at more than $45,000, but the fair also received more than $23,000 from the state.

"We file with the (Pa.) Department of Agriculture a report and they reimburse us based on premiums paid and qualified expenses," Reichard said.

Last year, more than $17,000 in premium checks were paid out to fair competitors and contestants.

Reichard said he hopes for fair weather to help stanch the river of red ink today and Saturday.

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