Max Denning

After a dip in attendance — and presumably in enthusiasm — for the Union County Fair, the traditional annual event is showing signs of returning to its former glory.

Amy Horn, president of the Union County Fair Association and an advertising representative for The Observer, said attendance, which was down in 2014 through 2016, was up last year and the trend continued this year with 15,354 people through the gate, higher than last year’s 14,947. Horn leads the fair board, which currently consists of four people. However, the board has three empty spots at the moment.

Margaret Spence, fair manager, said not having a full board hurts, but not as much as you might think.

“We would love to have a couple more board members, but sometimes you work best in a small group,” Spence said. “It hasn’t been bad, but we do need a full board eventually.”

Spence and Horn agreed there was a lot to be excited about this year, including new food vendors, an exhibit by Cutco Knives and Cutlery and all-local musical acts. Another standout is the new policy that allows individuals to buy a beer in the beer garden and walk around with it outside the garden. Spence noted the fair association increased security this year because of the new policy.

There are still places where the fair hopes to improve. Christine Courtright, a member of the fair’s advisory board who has been involved in the Union County Fair for 48 years, said the number of entries for flowers, jams and jellies, and land products, such as fruits and vegetables, have decreased significantly.

Lori Ritter, fair association treasurer, said the lack of entries has been frustrating.

“If nobody enters, there’s nothing to see,” Ritter said. “People need to get more involved.”

She said she believes people don’t have the time they used to.

Another way in which the fair hopes to improve is institutional knowledge. Horn said in the past there was a lack of information being passed down from board to board. Horn was on the board last year as secretary.

“It’s a challenge to get people involved and to stay involved,” Horn said.

Courtright said this year a number of people resigned from the board near the time of the fair.

Despite that fact, the existing board and Spence agreed the fair is starting to come back together. One of the biggest challenges, Spence said, is demonstrating the fair has improved.