Photo provided - A tractor competes at the NTPA Modified Tractor and Truck Pulls in 2021. The pulls will return Friday, Sept. 23 and Saturday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. during the 2022 St. Joseph County Fair, which occurs Sept. 18-24.COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Riley Cross of Mendon participates in the kids’ pedal pull competition at the 2021 St. Joseph County Fair. The pedal pulls will return to the free stage at this year’s fair.

County Fair to go 'horsing around' for 2022 edition

CENTREVILLE — The biggest event in St. Joseph County is on the horizon once again, for the 151st year.

The St. Joseph County Grange Fair will commence Sunday, Sept. 18 and go through Saturday, Sept. 24 at the fairgrounds in Centreville, located on M-86. With a theme this year of “Horsing Around,” the fair draws thousands of people to Centreville every year as one of the oldest and largest fairs in southern Michigan.

“We do everything as a fair board with all the planning we do year to year to try to make this an educational experience as well as fun for families,” St. Joseph County Fair Board Director Mindy Timm said. “We know times are tough with the cost of things, so we really try to bring experiences that other people might not have a chance to see or go do.”

Following a rainy and chilly 2021 edition, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic, Timm said she is hoping for better weather and large crowds for this year’s fair. Temperatures are expected to be in the 80s for highs throughout the week, with the only chance of rain being on Tuesday, Sept. 20 and Wednesday, Sept. 21, according to The Weather Channel’s forecast as of Monday.

With regards to crowds, one seemingly welcome return for fair-goers this year is the re-opening of the Nottawa Street walk-in gate. The gate was closed last year with only one other walk-in gate on Franklin Street opened for foot traffic, a move that was pinpointed by many as one of the causes of extreme congestion at the gates later in that week.

“We didn't have anything down there last year, so that's why we didn't want anyone coming in that way and getting lost. Friday was a big day for us that year with the rain Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so everyone came Friday and Saturday,” Timm said. “Now that we've expanded attractions back down to that area, we decided to open that up, and to decrease congestion as well.”

As is typical with the fair, it will be offering a wide variety of activities, rides, games and shows throughout the week. One of the new experiences being brought to the fair this year will be a Shark Encounter show, which will occur three times daily for free during the week across from the First Aid Station. The show will feature a diver swimming with live sharks, which Timm says will combine education and entertainment into one show.

“A lot of people probably in this area have never seen a shark, will never see a shark in their life, so we thought it'd be cool to bring that here and let everyone experience that,” Timm said. “You can walk up any time during the day and see the sharks swimming in the tank.”

Another big addition to the fair is a new Heritage Park exhibit past the First Aid Station on the west side of the fairgrounds. The park will feature the return of a fair garden, a forager demonstration, a blacksmith demonstration, an old-fashioned corn shelling machine, and a new open-class antique tractor display. Timm said the tractor display would be open to anybody who has an antique tractor to show off.

“You can live in Michigan or not, you can bring your tractor, and it doesn't cost anything to enter. We are giving away trophies too,” Timm said.

The addition of Heritage Park is part of the fair’s mission statement to keep alive the county’s agricultural heritage and show it off to fairgoers.

“We have farmers on our fair board, so that's one thing we want to touch on and show the community we're a big farming community,” Timm said. “We wanted to bring something educational that people won't ever see, and we wanted to have an area for families to kind of get away from the crazy rides and the hustle and bustle of the fair, and just relax and walk around and see things they wouldn't otherwise see with their families.”

However, the biggest event coming to this year’s fair is the band Petty Nicks, a tribute band to Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22 at the grandstand, with tickets $15 before Sept. 18 and $20 after Sept. 18. Both grandstand and track seating is general admission, and there are no assigned seats. Those who want to watch from the track are encouraged to stand or bring their own chair.

Timm said the idea to bring the tribute band to Centreville came from one of their board members who saw the band in Florida.

“The board member brought it back to us and asked what we thought. We looked into it, did some research, and we thought it would be great to bring,” Timm said. “We haven’t done a tribute band in a few years, so we wanted to bring it back and see what people thought.”

Other grandstand events throughout the week include the Farm Truck and Semi Pulls Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m., the Super Kicker Rodeo on Monday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m., Figure 8 Racing on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m., the Bump N Run and Demolition Derby at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, and the NTPA Modified Tractor and Truck Pulls Friday, Sept. 23 and Saturday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Both the Community Tent and Free Stage will have events going on as well, including live music and activities for both kids and adults, including magicians, bingo, kids’ pedal pulls, and presentations from local organizations, such as the St. Joseph County Commission on Aging and the St. Joseph County Conservation District.

“Our Free Stage and Community Tent committee does a great job, and they do a wonderful job of bringing local bands and different activities in. I know on Ladies Day, we're doing some ladies' events, and we have crafts for kids’ day, so there’s a lot of free things to do here at the fair that doesn't cost you anything but your admission into the fair,” Timm said.

Friday, Sept. 23’s festivities will also include a Veterans Day pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., followed by a veterans-only classic motorcycle ride. Those who wish to participate in the ride, Timm said, can ride in on their motorcycle and present the flyer for the event at the Nottawa Street entrance to receive free admission to the fair. The breakfast is open for all veterans and active servicemen and women.

As always, there will be 4-H exhibits as well, from the animal barns to the Open Class exhibits and the still exhibits, located throughout the fair. The Show Arena will be busy throughout the week with animal shows in the mornings, highlighted by the small and large animal sales Thursday morning, Sept. 22, which will be preceded by the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at 9:30 a.m.

As for the midway, Skerbeck Entertainment Group will once again return to provide midway action from Monday through Saturday. The midway will open at 1 p.m. Monday, 3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 11 a.m. Saturday. Wristbands, Timm said, are $25 now until Sunday, Sept. 18 at 5 p.m., with $90 “mega band” vouchers available for unlimited rides all week. Single-day daily wristband specials during the fair are $25 Monday through Thursday and $30 Friday and Saturday, with individual ride tickets available for purchase as well.

Admission to the 2022 St. Joseph County Grange Fair is $8 for adults, with children 10 and under free. Free parking is available. Special prices for theme days are free admission for kids 18 and under on Kids Day, Monday, Sept. 19; $5 admission for seniors 62 and older on Senior Day, Wednesday, Sept. 21; $5 admission for ladies on Ladies Day Thursday, Sept. 22, and $5 admission for veterans on Friday, Sept. 23.

Timm said wristband vouchers have been “doing well” so far, and hopes it will trend towards a well-attended fair this year.

Overall, Timm said she hopes for a good fair this year, and said she’s looking forward to seeing everybody come down to the fairgrounds.

“The theme for this year is Horsing Around, so we're horsing around at the St. Joseph County Grange Fair,” Timm said.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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