New fair head keeping it fresh
Ryan Summerlin July 11, 2014
Before last year’s Summit County Fair, the new Fair Administrator Travis English was talking to some people about it. They asked him if the fair was a new venture for the county — they had never heard of it before.
So English came up with a new slogan — "Havin’ a Good Time Since 1909" — that emphasized the history and traditions of the more than century-old fair.
But more importantly, English said, he "needed to add a breath of fresh air" to the fair.
That is why this year, fairgoers will be able to experience more than just the traditional favorites such as the PRCA rodeo and demolition derby. For the first time this year, the fair will host a film competition, a farm petting zoo, a four-fold increase in vendors, and, not least importantly, a beer and wine garden.
The additional events are meant to serve as a bridge between the more rural East Side of the county and the more urban West Side, said Summit County Fair Board Chair Marla Howard.
Before recently, the fair was thought of more of an East Side event, so fair officials wanted to bring more West Siders to Coalville to partake, said Julie Booth, public information officer for Summit County.
Before English arrived to lead the fair last year, Howard and the rest of the board sensed a state of complacency in people who had led the fair in the past. The person who ran the fair had been doing so for more than two decades, and Howard felt that recommendations and ideas from the board weren’t being taken seriously.
As a result, both participation and attendance had been slipping.
So the board hired English, who most recently had been a staff member at Park City’s Kimball Arts Center. But he was a farm boy at heart — he grew up in rural Somerset County in western Pennsylvania. When he wasn’t winning three blue ribbons at his local fair in Pennsylvania for square-dancing, he as an avid attendee of both the county and state fairs with his family and church members.
Howard said English had both the background (as a current resident of Summit County and frequent fair attendee) and characteristics they wanted. "We had a fairly long punch-card of things we wanted accomplished," Howard said. "He has a very engaging personality with more creative thoughts.
So part of English’s focus has been strengthening the foundations of what a fair traditionally has — a good ol’ fashioned pig race has been added this year — while boosting advertising and offering more ideas to keep the fair modern and appealing to urban audiences. "We want to make the fair all-inclusive," he said.
One of his first orders of business last year was to update the fair’s website, which had fallen into dormancy. Now, it is fully updated, with the relatively new feature of selling tickets online.
This year’s Summit County Fair will be held Aug. 2 through Aug. 9. For more information on the fair, go to summitcountyfair.org.