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Rain or shine, crowds turning out for Appalachian Fair

August 19th, 2014 10:08 pm by Max Hrenda

Rain or shine, crowds turning out for Appalachian Fair

Fair organizers say the Zoogvogel, a 100-foot spinning swingset, has been one of the Appalachian Fair's biggest attractions this year. (Photos by Max Hrenda/Johnson City Press)

Despite the week’s forecast calling for persistent rain showers, officials said tens of thousands of people chose to take their chances and pay a visit to the Appalachian Fair.

For the fair’s opening day, approximately 16,000 people made the decision to weather the elements and attend this year’s fair.

Although storms can be common in Northeast Tennessee at this time of year, the National Weather Service station in Morristown has forecast a chance of thunderstorms for each of the fair’s six days. As of Tuesday evening, NWS predicted that the chances of those thunderstorms were no less than 30 percent on any given day.

Despite those dire forecasts, crowds have continued to come out, said David Guinn, one of the directors for the Appalachian Fair Association, crowds have continued to come out.

“We had a good crowd (Monday) night in spite of the threat of major rain,” Guinn said. “But it was beautiful here.”

On Monday, ticket-takers counted 16,068 people who braved the elements and came to the fair, which according to Guinn, is lower than the fair usually draws.

“It’s a little below average for the first day,” Guinn said. “Usually we have somewhere around the low 20s (thousands). But, as the week goes on, it’ll pick up. It always has.”

Those who have visited the fair may not have regretted their decision, at least, in terms of the weather. Although parts of Kingsport and Johnson City saw patches of rain Monday, Guinn said the fair itself remained dry.

“The sun was shining right up until dark,” he said. “It was just gorgeous.”

While the early attendance numbers may be lower than average, Guinn said those who came tended to gravitate toward some of the fair’s newer attractions. In terms of rides, Guinn said the crowds seemed to prefer the Zoogvogel, a spinning swingset that takes its riders 100 feet in the air.

“It seems to be very popular,” Guinn said. “I’m not much for heights, but other people really like that.”

Kingsport resident Junior Sexton, who worked the controls for the Zoogvogel on Tuesday afternoon, said lines for the ride have grown so large that they wrapped halfway around its circular enclosure.

“(People) are saying it’s fun,” Sexton said. “I had one guy who said he was scared of heights. But he got on and said he had fun.”

Sexton added that, though he hadn’t yet had a chance to take advantage of the Zoogvogel himself, it was a priority.

Despite the testimony of its operator, however, at least one of the ride’s patrons had a few suggestions. Fall Branch resident Alexis Crawford said the ride, while enjoyable, was lacking in some areas.

“I thought the ride was fun,” she said, moments after she disembarked. “But it needs to be longer. It was, like, 20 seconds. And it just needs one seat.”

In addition to the Zoogvogel, Guinn said fairgoers were drawn to special exhibits, like monster trucks.

“They’re big and make a lot of noise,” Guinn said. “Everybody likes those.”

Additionally, Guinn said he was pleasantly surprised by the number of local farmers who brought livestock and crops to this year’s fair.

“In spite of the dry weather we’ve had, we have a lot of exhibits from the farms around the area,” he said.

Though Guinn’s more immediate concerns may be for wet weather conditions, as opposed to dry ones, he added that despite the forecasts, the fair has remained unblemished.

“Anytime from May until September, there’s a 20 or 30 percent chance of rain every day somewhere in the area,” he said. “I think it’s a great fair. We’re having a great time so far.”

Follow Max Hrenda on Twitter @MaxLHrenda. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/jcpresshrenda.

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