Crowds, queen open U.P. State Fair

Jordan Beck | Daily Press From left, Miss U.P. State Fair Princess second runner-up Emma Tebo, Miss U.P. State Fair Princess first runner-up Jada Johnson, Miss U.P. State Fair Princess Aspen Frederick, Miss U.P. State Fair Queen Rebecca Havelka, Miss U.P. State Fair Queen first runner-up Shelbie Soderman and 2018 Miss U.P. State Fair Queen Victoria Merchberger take part in this year’s pageant Monday evening.

ESCANABA — Warm weather and a number of special events helped bring a crowd to opening night at the U.P. State Fair Monday evening.

“We are ready to open — ready and excited to open,” Delta County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vickie Micheau said.

A few hours before gates for the fair opened Monday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new multi-use complex on the U.P. State Fairgrounds was held. The new complex, located near the U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association’s Antique Village, will house offices for the Delta County Chamber of Commerce, Delta County Builders Exchange, Delta County Economic Development Alliance and the U.P. State Fair; a U.P. Welcome Center; and the U.P. Veterans Museum and Webster Marble “Inventing the Outdoors” Museum.

At the ceremony, representatives of organizations involved with the complex’s creation — including the U.P. State Fair Authority, the Delta County Chamber of Commerce, local governments, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the state legislature — shared brief remarks.

Greg and Diane Besse went on to cut the ribbon for the new building. Ceremony attendees then had a chance to tour the multi-use complex.

Micheau said participation in the ribbon-cutting ceremony was strong.

“It’s indicative of the support that this whole complex has received in the last year,” she said.

Greg Besse, president of the John and Melissa Besse Foundation, which donated $1 million for the complex, and owner, president and CEO of Besse Forest Products, said he is glad the new building will serve as a more prominent location for the Delta County Commerce Center.

“I think it’s great that we can move it out on this busy stretch of highway,” he said.

The multi-use complex is set to officially open on Monday, Aug. 26. The U.P. Veterans Museum is still under construction; Ann Jousma-Miller, a member of the committee for the veterans museum, said she expects this museum to be completed next spring.

Some other special events took place at the fair Monday after gates for the event opened, including the crowning of the Miss U.P. State Fair Queen and Princess. These honors went to Rebecca Havelka and Aspen Frederick, respectively.

Havelka, who was previously a Miss U.P. State Fair Princess, said she was glad to have been named Miss U.P. State Fair Queen for 2019.

“Now, I’ll be able to help promote the U.P. State Fair to more people,” she said.

Pageant participants hand out ribbons and awards during the U.P. State Fair. Additionally, the winners are involved with community service throughout the year.

Frederick felt similarly about her win.

“It feels really awesome to be able to help out throughout the fair more and be able to promote 4-H and the contests,” she said.

Shelbie Soderman was the first runner-up in the Miss U.P. State Fair Queen category. In the Miss U.P. State Fair Princess category, Jada Johnson was the first runner-up and Emma Tebo was the second runner-up.

Micheau said another event on Monday marked a first for opening night at the fair.

“This is the first time that we’ve had grandstand entertainment,” she said.

Country singer Carly Pearce performed on the grandstand stage that night.

According to Micheau, the fair was fully open Monday evening, with rides, food vendors and barns available for the public to enjoy.

Escanaba student Gino Strong, who is going into 10th grade this fall, said his time at the U.P. State Fair got off to a good start Monday. Some of the things he likes at the fair are rides, games and hanging out with his friends.

“The wristbands are pretty cheap this year,” he said.

Other fair attendees, such as William Kempka of Curtis, Wis., liked visiting the event’s livestock barns.

“It’s pretty good — nice animals, nice weather,” Kempka said of this year’s fair.

In the Antique Village, Stephenson resident Diana Jarnutowski — owner of “The Wooly Sock,” one of the Village’s shops — said she was feeling optimistic in regards to turnout for the 2019 U.P. State Fair.

“It seems like it will probably be well-attended,” she said.

The U.P. State Fair will continue through Sunday, Aug. 18. Gates will open at 9 a.m. for the remainder of the fair. For more information, visit www.upstatefair.net.