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Column: Ten favorite things about the Upper Peninsula State Fair

ESCANABA — Generations of fairgoers have been making their way to the Upper Peninsula State Fairgrounds for fun and excitement since 1927. Summer just wouldn’t be summer without a visit to this much anticipated annual event.

The grand festival brings together people from all walks of life who search out their fair favorites year after year. So, what is it that has drawn nearly 100,000 people through the gates for more than ninety years? Obviously, it’s different things for different people.

Here, in no particular order, are the top 10 fair favorites as identified by some of my favorite people.

1. Grandstand Entertainment. Commerce Center Associate Director Sheila Krueger looks forward to the grandstand entertainment. Every year there is something for everyone. Whether you like rock or county music or wheeled events, like the races put on by the Upper Peninsula International Race Association, you are sure to find it at the fair.

2.The combination of traditional fair favorites and new attractions. Robert Micheau, executive director of Visit Escanaba, appreciates the steadfast attractions such as the Department of Natural Resources Pocket Park and Steam and Gas Engine Village but also looks forward to seeing what’s new each year. He is particularly pleased to see Skerbeck Entertainment Group’s midway carnival and attractions ever year. They keep things new and exciting and draw visitors and new financial resources to the area ~ he likes that.

3.The people. Sue Helgemo, chair elect of the Chamber Board of Directors, looks forward to the opportunity to stop and observe people as they enjoy the entertainment, exhibits, midway and food. Their laughter and smiles provide the only answer she needs to her question, “Are you enjoying the Upper Peninsula State Fair?”

4. Strolling down memory lane. Ed Legault, Delta County Chamber chair, responded with the following. “What I really like about the fair is that the excitement really hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. It’s great seeing kids enjoy the same routine that I went through during my early fair visits; the rush to the midway, then to see the animals in the barns and the inevitable swing through the food vendors where, besides the cotton candy and elephant ears, I get the same Norm’s fries (doused in malt vinegar) that I’ve enjoyed year after year. So, aside from just good old-fashion family fun, it is a walk down memory lane for me.”

5. The Miracle of Life exhibit. This is a favorite of Ann Harrington, treasurer of the U.P. State Fair Authority, because the time and effort that is put into this exhibit is so evident. The look on peoples’ faces when a new life comes into the world and the experience of the parents as they expose their children to this special event is rewarding. The volunteers that come in faithfully everyday, especially the veterinarians, should be commended for their steadfast involvement year after year.

6. Growing Up Foresters exhibit. Pam Lauscher, Chamber board member from Verso said that the Growing Up Foresters exhibit had her vote. Because we live in a timber dependent community, this is a perfect educational tool for young and old.

7.Energy and Commitment. Nicole Smith, communications officer who started with the fair team just last year, said she appreciates the amount of passion and pride that truly is poured into the Fair. It is so genuine and inspiring. The dedication that is exhibited by vendors, exhibitors, and volunteers is simply amazing to witness. There is nothing better than the energy packed, family atmosphere that the Fair has to offer!

8. Hard Working Exhibitors. Exhibitor Department Manager Lori Branstrom’s response was exactly what I expected. Her favorite part of the fair is seeing the look on the faces of junior market livestock exhibitors when they arrive at the fair with their animals. They know everyone in all the departments are there to celebrate the hard work, dedication and their efforts that have led up to the moment when they finally enter the show ring with their champion animals.

9. Food – No visit to the fair is complete without traditional fair food. I must admit that EVERYONE mentioned food when asked what they liked most about the fair. Laci Mitchell, 2017 U.P. State Fair Queen, responded emphatically that she looked forward to having a root beer float at Debackers Family Dairy booth.

10 .Best way to top off summer. Consistent with the theme of this year’s fair, Sarah Lippens, vendor coordinator replied to the question with, “One of my favorite things about the fair is that it falls right at the end of the summer before I have to move back to school. It gives me the chance to see and catch up with lots of people while enjoying all there is to do at the fair. It’s the perfect way to end my summer at home!”

Whatever your irresistible draw is, we look forward to seeing you at the fair — I agree with Sarah, it truly is the best way to top off summer.

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Vickie Micheau is the executive director of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce

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