W.E. Fair opens a day late
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS A Syrian brown bear dunks a basketball in Hall's Bear Mountain Wildlife Show, featured at the West End Fair in Gilbert.
Except for a couple of water puddles, there were no effects from Hurricane Irene which passed through the West End Fair grounds on Sunday.
The fair officially opened Monday - a day late because of Irene - to large crowds.
Tents that were pitched before the arrival of Irene were still standing, unaffected by 50 mile-per-hour winds. All the rides were operating.
"We had a few branches down in the grove, but that was it," said one security guard. "And we cleaned that up right away."
The fair had appeared vulnerable to Irene because of its renowned tree-lined midway.
An extra day was added to the fair schedule because of Irene. The fair, scheduled to end on Saturday, will now end on Sunday. Fireworks, which had been scheduled for this past Sunday night, will be fired off on Sunday, Sept. 4.
"I think the storm missed the fair," laughed Tom McIntosh of Clinton, N.J., who was with his wife and two small children. "I thought there would be tents blown over and trees down. I'm glad there wasn't any damage because I like this fair. The people are nice, the fair is well run, and there's a family atmosphere."
One of the free attractions this year is Hall's Bear Mountain Wildlife Show, which features Syrian brown bears performing such antics as dunking a basketball, climbing stairs, and riding a stationary bike.
Pat Schneider, fair secretary, said one of the new attractions this year is a special fish tank in which children can catch live fish and then return them.
A "Kid's Korner" lets youngsters be a "farmer for a day" and features Grandpa Cratchet, a puppet inside a remote controlled vehicle.
Also, there is a teen center which has video games and even a night of karaoke.
Balloons the Clown made his debut at the fair this year, said Schneider. He was busy walking the midway yesterday, greeting youngsters with balloon creations.
The West End Fair is known for its full schedule of quality entertainment.
Yesterday the Country Rhythm Band performed in the band shell, delivering traditional country music with songs like Dottie West's "Here Comes My Baby Back Again," Bette Midler's "The Rose," and a big hit by Faron Young, which also was released by Martina McBride, "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down." They interjected some new country such as Brad Paisley's "Wrapped Around (Your Finger)."
Also on stage was Elvis Presley impersonator Ryan Pelton.
West End Fair Nationals Racing kept fairgoers in the grandstand until well after the 11 p.m. closing time.
Tonight, the main grandstand attraction is the first of three demolition derbies. The motor mayhem starts at 7 p.m. There is a fee of $8 per person for the derby.
Also at the fair today will be The Jesse Wade Gang, a veteran country music band which sings covers by Alan Jackson, George Strait, and other country greats.