Montgomery County Fair to open for the last time in downtown Dayton

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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The Montgomery County Fair will open next week for the last time at its Dayton location, the annual site for more than 160 years.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Montgomery County Fair will open in Dayton for the last time on Monday.

The fair will move to Jefferson Twp. next summer, leaving behind the historic South Main Street site across from Miami Valley Hospital that has hosted the fair for 160 years.

RELATED: Looking back at the Montgomery County Fair, stretching back almost 180 years

“It’s not an easy thing to do, to leave the property,” said Montgomery County commissioner Dan Foley, a Dayton native who bought pigs, raised them and sold them at the county fair as a member of 4-H during his freshman year of high school. “People get attached to the memories and the tradition.”

During Monday’s opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m., the fair will showcase the building plan for the new site at Jefferson Twp.’s Judge Arthur O. Fisher Park.

MORE: Montgomery County Fairgrounds finally finds new location

Each day of next week’s fair, which runs from Monday to Saturday, will be dedicated to a different local family or company for their support over the years.

“We normally only do two, now we’re doing one every day,” fair board president John Yancik said.

There will be more food vendors on site this year than usual — 26, as opposed to the usual 19 or 20 — as Yancik is “hoping that we’ll have a good crowd and everybody will want to eat fair foods.”

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“Every night we’re going to have something that’s loud and dirty in front of the grandstands,” Yancik said. “Truck drags, Tug-a-Truck, rodeos, demolition derbies, that kind of thing.”

The fair is using the slogan ‘Fairwell on Main Street’ to mark the occasion. Yancik said he hopes that attendance will be strong for the fair’s last hurrah at its old spot.

“We hope that the people who haven’t been here in a while come this year, so we don’t hear complaints next year that they missed out,” Yancik said.

The move

While Foley said that it took “nearly five years” of official city planning to get the fair moved from South Main Street, Yancik claimed that the move was generations in the making.

“Moving the fair has been discussed for probably the last four to six generations of people in this county, and now it’s actually happening,” Yancik said. “I heard about it when I was a little kid, and now I’m eligible for retirement.”

The University of Dayton and Premier Health purchased the South Main Street fairgrounds in April, following years of discussion about what would happen to the property.

MORE: It’s official: UD and Premier complete fairgrounds purchase

There were many issues surrounding the old location; foremost amongst them was its size.

Yancik said that, over time, the fair had simply outgrown its 38-acre facility.

Just 600 cars fit on the downtown fairgrounds property, with most visitors typically parking in surrounding neighborhoods, at the University of Dayton, at Miami Valley Hospital, or riding the RTA to attend the fair. Between 60,000 to 65,000 people visit the fair each year, on average, according to Yancik.

At the fair’s new 150-acre Jefferson Twp. location, Yancik said there will be room for 1,500 vehicles.

“Parking has always been an issue,” Yancik said. “For us to bring in larger events, we need more parking for bigger trucks and that kind of thing.”

RELATED: History of fairgrounds; UD and Premier buy property

Yancik said the new fairgrounds’ size will allow it to host more events than just the annual fair.

“It gives us an opportunity to not only have the fair one week a year, but to have other events the other 51 weeks,” Yancik said.

Yancik also noted the old facility’s age as a factor in the decision to move. He believes that the move will not only benefit the fair, but also downtown Dayton, as the old site will gain a different purpose.

Date change

While this is the fair’s last year in its old location, it is its first year on a new date.

The fair was moved from its traditional Labor Day week slot in an effort to accommodate 4-H participants, who are often also involved with school sports or clubs by late August.

Yancik also cited local holiday competition as a reason for the date change.

“The fact that there are other things going on in the county when we’ve always had the fair, and everybody’s competing with everybody else… it just hasn’t worked out,” Yancik said.

MORE: Fair’s final Labor Day weekend at historic site begins (from September)

The fair board voted on and applied for the new date in 2015, Yancik said. Once they were given permission to move the date, they started looking backwards on the calendar from the old date. But under the Ohio Revised Code and Ohio Department of Agriculture rules, a county cannot have a fair on the same week as a neighboring county. Montgomery County touches seven counties, making it difficult for the board to find a date near August.

“We had to go to where the opening was, and this was the opening,” Yancik said. “And this was the only opening, unless we wanted to go into June, and we opted not to do that.”

Explore PHOTOS: Montgomery County Fair 2016

Yancik hopes that the fair’s new date, nearly two months before it’s previous one, will bring more visitors.

“Next week in the county, there’s not that much going on,” Yancik said Friday. “That will, we hope, increase our attendance. And that’s a real positive, because whenever any festivals or fairs open up, you want to open up and have a good crowd every day.”


IF YOU GO…

WHAT: Montgomery County Fair

WHERE: 1043 South Main St., Dayton

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday

COST: Admission is $8, and the premier nightly grandstand events will be free.

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