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Fair enjoys high turnout

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette — Matt Pagliarulo pops a wheelie with his monster truck Jester Saturday night at the Houghton County Fair.

HANCOCK — Buoyed by good weather, the Houghton County Fair’s first two days were even with or better than last year’s turnout, said fair office manager Carol Saari. Saturday’s attendance could break a record, she said.

“People wait for this all year,” Margaret Dunstan said. “The kids wait for the monster trucks.”

A majority of fairgoers were clustered around the main arena Saturday night; even for those who didn’t, the roar could be heard throughout the fairgrounds.

Announcer Matt Isbill directed crowd members in the language of checkered flags. They should wave the flag in a circle for a donut. Front to back, a vertical wheel stand. Side to side, a regular cheer.

“If you want to see something cool, you’ve got to show your support,” he told the crowd.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette — Anna Black of Negaunee, left and Valeriia Black of Lake Linden react to a camel at the Whispering Pines Petting Zoo at the Houghton County Fair Saturday.

New additions this year included the U.S. Army truck and the Grizzly Experience, featuring grizzly bears raised in captivity. This was also the first year for the Sensory Sensitive Day, in which the sounds and lights of fairground attractions were turned off friday afternoon to better accomodate autistic children. About 140 people took part, coordinator Heather Saari said.

“We always try to change things up every year,” Dunstan said. However, some parts have become tradition.

“People have come to expect monster trucks,” Saari said.

Dean LaTendresse of Chassell has been coming to the fair for most, if not all, of his 56 years. For many of them, his children have been showing cattle.

“This year, we don’t have anything, but we come to help the kids that are showing livestock,” he said.

In the early days, a one-day fair was held in Chassell behind the former school building, LaTendresse said. It moved to Houghton County in 1974. The livestock and other exhibits were all housed in the Houghton County Arena, prior to the installation of its concrete floor.

The exhibit building, where LaTendresse stood Saturday night looking at entries, housed the livestock next.

The fair kept expanding, adding a carnival in the mid-1980s, and expanding up the hill to its current barn location.

“It’s good,” he said of the expansions. “It’s kind of the big event for the area and concludes the summer.”

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