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Elizabeth Saulsbury

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All's Fair in Gray: Appalachian Fair staff, crews prepare for opening

August 16th, 2014 9:51 pm by Elizabeth Saulsbury

All's Fair in Gray: Appalachian Fair staff, crews prepare for opening

Quataruius Smith works on the Zoogvogel, a 100-foot spinning swingset, as the ferris wheel looms over the Appalachian Fairgrounds Saturday afternoon. (Photos by Max Hrenda/Johnson City Press)

Staff and crews of the Appalachian Fair are making final preparations for the fair’s opening on Monday.

The Appalachian Fair will run through Saturday and feature the theme “Blue Ribbon Days, Hot Country Nights.”

“‘Blue Ribbon Days’ refers to all the competitive events we have, and then of course ‘Hot Country Nights’ refers to our main stage entertainment in the evenings,” said Sherry Shadden, the fair’s administrative assistant.

Shadden said the fair’s workers have been doing a variety of things in preparation for the event.

“We took nonperishable entries over last weekend for some of the contests, and we’ll be taking perishable entries this weekend,” Shadden said. “We’ll have people working on displays to get those to look pretty before the fair opens, and we have folks out here working on commercial booths.”

This year’s fair will feature many favorite contests and events, including the youth talent contest and the Fairest of the Fair pageant. In their second years will be the Battle of the Bands Contest and the “So You Think You Can Dance” competition. New events will be arriving this year as well, including a tractor pull on Wednesday.

The fair’s rides are always popular, and this year will feature a new one.

“It’s 110-feet high,” Shadden said. “It’s called The Skyflyer. I know a lot of people will be lined up for that one because it’s going to be a very exciting ride.”

Agricultural and livestock exhibits have long been beloved attractions.

“The barnyard nursery is always very popular,” Shadden said. “We promote agriculture; that’s the main thing about this particular fair.”

Shadden said fair attendance usually remains pretty steady every year, but last year saw an increase from previous fairs.

“We had 239,000 last year, which was up from 235,000,” Shadden said. “If the weather holds up, we have no reason to expect less.”

The “Hot Country Nights” aspect of the fair is a costly one. Shadden said bringing the main stage entertainment to Gray is a big expense and the price tag for this year’s entertainment is $200,000.

This year’s concert lineup is a diverse one and include artists from many genres.

“We feel that we’ve spread out the week really well,” Shadden said. “We don’t really have one big entertainer this year, but we have a lot of good people coming out to the main stage.”

Shadden said country singer Thomas Rhett’s show seems to be selling the most tickets, and the shows for Francesca Batistelli and For King and Country are selling well, too.

Shadden also said that in spite of the expensive entertainment, admission to the fair is extremely reasonable.

“I don’t think people realize all that they can do for the admission price of $8,” she said.

From the rides and contests to the music and exhibits, Shadden said the atmosphere of the Appalachian Fair is one that everyone can enjoy.

“It’s a family fair,” Shadden said. “People can feel good about bringing their children. It’s a meet-and-greet event where you can socialize with people you haven’t seen in a long time.”

Shadden said the fair is not only a place for kids to have fun, but also to learn.

“There’s a lot of educational value in it, especially with the agriculture and wildlife displays,” Shadden said. “The fair isn’t just rides and music; it’s also an educational opportunity.”

For more information about the Fair, visit or call 477-3211.

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