Starting early next week, a familiar scene will return to the Brown County Fairgrounds. Carnival rides will rise into the air, food booths will open for business, and farm animals will settle into the barns surrounded by fans — and hopefully ribbons.

The sounds of truck and tractor engines will fill the air the evening of July 31, when the grandstand events begin with the tractor and truck pull.

While many of the sights and sounds will be the same, fair visitors may notice some changes this year.

On Aug. 1, flat drag racing will return to the grandstand for the first time in about seven or eight years, fair board President Mark Stargell said.

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“We were asked for years ‘Why did you do away with it?’ Everybody else did, too. Other counties got rid of them, too,” he said.

“It’s something that kind of came back around through the years, and everybody has else is doing it this year, pretty much.”

In that event, drivers race ATV and motorcycles for the best time on a flat drag.

Stargell said that since Morgan and Monroe counties both have fairs the same week of Brown County — July 30 through Aug. 5 — they released their grandstand event schedule after the two counties to avoid event conflicts.

“I tried not to do that in the past, but sometimes it seemed like we got our schedule out first and then it’s like ‘OK, we’ll just do ours the same night.’ This year I think we kind of got behind them for a change,” he said.

“So people will get around more to the fairs and stuff like that. Just so you don’t have two of the same things going on at the same time.”

For example, the farm tractor and truck pull will be on a Monday night this year. It was a Wednesday night event last year.

Visitors will notice changes as they cross the bridge to the other side of the fairgrounds where food, commercial booths and rides await.

For the past three years, there wasn’t a dedicated food booth that served ice cream. A vendor used to sell ice cream in waffle cones, but had to quit coming due to health reasons, Stargell said.

This year The Chocolate Moose will be selling ice cream in small serving cups near the entrance of the fair. There will also be a new booth selling gyros, Stargell said.

Carver Toyota of Columbus will also be stationed at the fair with some vehicles for display, and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department will show off one of its police vehicles, Stargell said.

The fee to park at the fairgrounds will be $2 this year, which is up a dollar from last year. The fair board will receive half of the funding, with the other half going to the local Boy Scouts, Stargell said.

Stargell said the fair board will use its share of the fee to pay the cemetery on Memorial Drive for allowing cars to park there.

A weekly parking pass is also available for $10.

Making money

The Bulls and Barrels Rodeo will return to the grandstand Saturday, July 29 before the midway opens July 31. It will be the third year the fair board has staged the rodeo.

“It’s not too bad. We haven’t gotten rich off it, but we’ve made money off of it. Everybody likes it, and it’s a good turnout, so we decided to try again and see where we go,” Stargell said.

The Hillbilly Ninja Warrior contest will also return for a second time to the grandstand this year.

If one event is canceled at the grandstand, the fair loses money, especially if another event can’t replace it.

Stargell said last year, organizers had planned to have a wrestling event in the grandstand but that the promoter pulled out the day of the event and there was no replacement event.

“He just pulled out. He called us and said ‘I’m not coming.’ It was beautiful that evening and … we lost money,” Stargell said.

The grandstand events are important for fair board funding, so the board tries to select events that will draw crowds.

“The grandstand events are really the meat of what keeps the fair board going. If we have a decrease, we don’t have the money to pay the bills, stuff like that throughout the year,” he said.

The fair board’s budget showed revenue for last year coming up about $13,000 short to cover 2016 expenses, according to Democrat archives.

The fair board does receive $35,000 from the county for infrastructure, maintenance and build improvements, Commissioner Diana Biddle said.

She said she requested in the commissioners’ budget that the fair board receives $45,000 next year to help fix structural issues at the grandstand and making it ADA-compliant.

The fair board pays for the fairground insurance, mowing and all of the utilities. Recently, the board put up a new catch fence in front of the grandstand and a new wash rack for animals in the barn, Stargell said.

Since 2014, the county council had given the fair board $178,000 to pay back a bond and for continued support of the fair and 4-H clubs.

In 2013, the council agreed take out a $500,000 bond for construction of new buildings and renovations of old ones on the fairgrounds.

Stargell said the new exhibit building, which was built using bond funds, was paid off this year.

Pageant changes

This year, an additional crown will be awarded during the Brown County 4-H Fair Queen Pageant on July 30.

For the first time, any pageant contestant under age 18 will be eligible for the fair princess crown.

Pageant organizer Maggie Evans said the change was made since a queen contestant must be at least 18 years old to compete in the state fair queen competition.

“We were running into an issue with that age difference where we’re allowing 16-year-olds to run for county, but then they’re not allowed to run for state. It was kind of unfair, I think, for those younger girls who wouldn’t be able to go to state,” Evans said.

She said that the fair board didn’t want age to be a factor in who wins.

“We didn’t want the judges to pick someone just because they were of age to go to state,” Evans said.

Evans said that other counties have added a princess category for contestants who are 16 or 17.

“Those younger girls can still compete and still be eligible for title, but they can also come back later and run for queen and then go to state,” she said.

There won’t be a separate contest for the two groups.

It’s all the same night. The judges will know there’s an age category when they make the decision. They will be all together,” Evans said.

Office changes

The Purdue Extension office will experience a change after the fair concludes.

In a June 23 letter sent to 4-H families, Purdue Extension educator Lisa Wilson announced she is leaving her position.

“It is with a bittersweet heart that I write to tell you I have accepted a position as the Health and Human Services Educator in Gibson County,” Wilson wrote.

“My family and I are truly going to miss Brown County and the Purdue Extension here, but we feel blessed to be closer to more family as well.”

Wilson said she will be in the office for most of the summer as well as “off and on” through the fair as her family moves.

Her last official day will be after the fair is over, she said.

She encouraged the families to support the Purdue Extension office during the transition time.

“A lot has been done in my time here, and I have full faith that it will continue,” Wilson said.

Brown County 4-H Fair deadlines

Pie contest: Pies must be brought to and registered in the Community Room at the Extension Office on Tuesday, Aug. 1 between 5 and 6:15 p.m. Judging begins at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 1.

4-H open class projects: Non-perishable exhibits must be entered on Saturday, July 29 between 10 a.m. and noon. Late entries will be accepted Monday, July 31 from 9 to 10 a.m.

Perishable exhibits (floriculture and gardening, food preservation and food preparation) must be entered Monday, July 31 between 10 a.m. and noon.

Exhibits must be claimed on Sunday, Aug. 6 between 2 and 4 p.m. Exhibits may not be removed between the time of official entry and release.

Second annual Hillbilly Ninja Warrior contest: Register at the Brown County Parks and Recreation office at Deer Run Park. Advance registration, with a discounted registration fee, opens Wednesday, July 5 and closes at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4. Registration will then move to the fairgrounds and a higher registration fee will be charged.

Cost is $15 for a child and $20 for an adult in advance; $25 for child and $30 for adult if signing up between 3 and 6 p.m. the day of the contest, Aug. 4.

After the first child, each additional child registering in a family will get a $5 discount.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.