‘Like moving into a new house’: How is the first Montgomery County Fair at the new fairgrounds going?

Montgomery County Fair attendees are getting used to the numerous changes at the new fairgrounds site in Jefferson Twp., and there have been some growing pains for the first fair hosted there.

Opening-day attendance at the fair this year tripled over the first day in 2017, according to the Montgomery County Agricultural Society. Executive Director Greg Wallace said a large majority of the feedback he has received on the new facilities has been “nothing but positive,” despite some criticism that the fair was not wheelchair-accessible enough.

“It’s kind of like moving into a new house,” he said. “You come in and realize the light switch isn’t in the right spot.”

The 2018 fair is housed at 645 Infirmary Road in Jefferson Twp., its first new location after 166 years at the old fairgrounds in downtown Dayton.

Dayton resident Daveina Petticrew said that she had to leave the fair early Tuesday because she struggled to use her wheelchair on the site. The gravel hampered movement, doors did not open automatically and she couldn’t access the bathrooms, she said.

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The gravel at the fairgrounds is difficult to navigate by wheelchair because it is not packed down, Wallace said. That means large, loose rocks can get in the way of wheels. Construction on the site was finished just two weeks ago.

The facilities passed inspection and comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, Wallace said.

Improvements will come to the fairgrounds in the future, including doors that open electronically. Wallace said the agricultural society also plans to add a gazebo and a new building.

The new building will house animals during the fair. At other times, it will house events such as conventions and dog shows. A timeline for construction is not set because the society is working to secure funding.

Many fairgoers on Thursday said the new facilities are an improvement over the previous site. The site is larger than the former fairgrounds, less crowded and placed in a more rural setting, they said.

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Tara Keating, a Farmersville resident whose children showed cattle Thursday, said the new location “actually looks like a fair.”

“When I came in the first day … I saw green space and sun and animals,” she said. “I do not hear city sounds … I can’t imagine in 10 years how well it will look.”

Tyler Michael, a member of We Liket 4-H club, said the tents and barns had better airflow than at the previous location, creating a cooler environment for the animals.

“You see a lot of cows laying down, chewing their cud, which means they’re relaxed,” he said.

Buildings at the previous location were deteriorating. Hope McGinnis, whose daughter participated in a rabbit show, said she saw paint chipping from the ceiling at a barn that housed animals during previous years. When the wind blew, the paint chips blew into animals’ food and water, she said.

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McGinnis said she wouldn’t change anything about this year’s facilities. The bathrooms are better, and overhead fans in the barns keep animals cool, she said.

Fair admission is $10. The fair will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

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