MARION — There is no doubt the Marion Fair has had its ups and downs over the past few years.
While the fair was able to overcome embezzlement by a former board member, it nearly was the end of the event that started in 1939.
A Marion Fair Board member was charged after embezzling from the event’s coffers but the money was paid back, the board member was sentenced on a lesser charge of larceny and it is in the past.
The past couple of years, the new board has fought to regain the public’s trust. Little by little they have done that. The first year after the embezzlement came to light, fair attendance was low. But every year since, momentum has been building.
With a historic milestone happening this summer, Marion Fair Board President Daryl Bode said it is time to reflect and celebrate what the fair has accomplished over the past 80 years.
“In a small town, (reaching the 80th anniversary) is a pretty awesome feat. The public has supported us in the good times and the bad times. We are getting back to what we used to be,‘ Bode said.
While the fair might be looking more like its old self, one thing Bode said will not be happening is the country music concert. He said that part of the fair’s history is likely just that, history.
For many years, the country music concert was known for bringing big-time acts to the small-town festival. Past acts included LeAnn Rimes, Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum and Justin Moore.
Like many things, booking even up-and-coming acts has continued to get more expensive. While Bode said the board tried to bring the concert back last year with Eric Chesser, it didn’t have the desired effect and the concert lost money. For that reason, the Marion Fair is not going to try to bring the event back as part of the week’s entertainment.
“We went out on a limb and tried it (last year). The concerts at the fair are hard to pull off,‘ he said. “The cost is astronomical. If you want to bring in a name you are looking at $50,000 to $80,000 and it is hard to bring back in (that kind of money) in a grand stand-type of thing.‘
When the concert was successful, Bode said acts could be brought in for $30,000. With the prices to bring in a similar act now close to double that, the fair would struggle to break even unless it raised the prices, which will just turn people off to going, Bode said.
With the idea of the concert now put to rest, Bode said the fair board will likely mix things up during the next couple years to see if they can find something that people like and want to come to see.
As a result, UWE Pro Wrestling entered the picture this year.
“They came to the board and made an offer. We are trying something different one night instead of the same things for five nights,‘ Bode said.
While the UWE will bring all of its brightest stars to the event, Bode said the event also will include WCW alumnus, WWE alumnus and current Lucha Underground star Chavo Guerrero Jr. as well as Ring of Honor, WWE and Impact Wrestling alumnus Jimmy Jacobs. Tickets for the UWE show are $20 for ringside, $15 for track seats and $10 for grandstand seats. The show will start at 7 p.m. on June 20.
The fair, which is slated to begin on June 16 and continue through June 22, also will have some of its old standbys when it comes to nightly events.
On Monday, June 17 the fair will host a free gospel concert in the grandstand featuring the 4 One Quartet. The show will start at 6 p.m. On Tuesday, June 18, Bode said there will be a Garden Stock Tractor Pull in the grandstand starting at 6 p.m. Admission is $5 with children 5 and under admitted free.
Farm Stock Tractor Pulls will be the main entertainment on Wednesday, June 19. The competition starts at 6 p.m. and admission is $5 with children 5 and under admitted free. Bode said there will be prize money, which is a first for the event. The hope is the prize money will drive up the competition.
Things get a little bigger when it comes to Friday’s entertainment in the grandstand. Bode said that will be the Marion Truck and Tractor pulls which will showcase the power of street stock and diesel trucks as well as modified tractors. Admission is $10 with children 5 and under admitted free.
The Marion Fair will wrap up its week’s worth of nightly entertainment with the USA Demolition Derby and the event will include front wheel drive and rear wheel drive Figure 8 as well as front wheel drive Stock Derby Finale. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. with $12 admission and children 5 and under admitted free.
While the nightly entertainment is designed to bring the crowds in during the evening, Bode said there will be plenty of things to do during the day. This includes carnival rides form Schmidt’s Amusements starting on Wednesday, June 19 as well as the livestock auction which is scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 21. Bode said when the carnival opens on June 19 there also will be kids games and pedal pulls which will be free for the kids to do.
Other attractions at the Marion Fair will include vendors, VFW Bingo and the traveling zoo from Muxlow Exotics. The zoo contains 26 exhibits that house a wide variety of reptile and amphibian species.
When it comes to the animals local children and teens bring to the fair, Bode said the fair board made the decision to wave fees associated with registering them. The hope is it will help to draw more children and teens to enter their animals. He said the fair board made a similar decision for the home arts registration fee in hopes of getting more people to enter their items.
For more information about the Marion Fair, log on to marionfair.com.