HALE – Whether an exhibitor, show performer, volunteer or member of the crowd, a large number of fairgrounds visitors were spotted gamely observing this year’s theme of, “Let’s Get Wild at the Iosco County Fair.”
Horse stalls and pig pens were festooned with foliage to resemble a jungle-like setting. Informational booths and vendors adorned their tables in safari style décor. The Wild World of Animals crew gave audiences an up-close look at creatures from small to large, and scaly to feathered.
This only scratches the surface of the wild times to be had at the 78th annual event, which went on from Monday through Saturday, July 25-30, at the Iosco County Fairgrounds in Hale. Flying Star Rodeo Productions also welcomed attendees to their Pro Rodeo event in the grandstands; competitors took part in a range of goofy games during both the Barnyard and Junior Barnyard Olympics; and there was even a mullet contest that brought in more than 20 participants.
Organizers report that the 2022 fair was fantastic and, as attendees can confirm, so too was the weather for the duration of the festivities.
People were able to keep some more green in their wallets, as well, given that much of the entertainment came at no charge. This included live music, robotics demonstrations, numerous shows in the horse arena, sewing and quilting demos by the Hale Country Quilters, the Iosco County Fair Parade, a Night of Worship-Community Hymn & Praise Gathering, a free breakfast on “Agricultural Day,” heavyweight draft horse pulls and multiple Comedy Farm Magic Review shows.
The latter, featuring illusionist Jonathon LaChance as “Farmer John,” weaved some agricultural lessons into the magic acts and joke telling, in a show which is geared toward the whole family.
Guests of all ages could also revel in the Wild World of Animals presentations, for free, which took place several times during all six days of the fair. Those from the Pennsylvania-based facility not only brought a range of unique creatures to the stage, but they also shared loads of fascinating facts about the animals, including details on their diet, habitat, what sets them apart from other species and how they defend themselves against predators.
According to representatives, the source of the animals they care for can be roughly broken down into three categories – those given to them by people who legally purchased an animal in a pet store and no longer wish to care for it, injured or orphaned animals which wouldn’t survive if returned to the wild and animals born at the facility or other similar, licensed facilities as the Wild World of Animals.
Among the critters showcased at the Iosco County Fair, were a legless lizard, albino Burmese python, alligator, laughing kookaburra, binturong, two-toed sloth, armadillo, alligator snapping turtle and a European eagle owl that’s capable of taking down a full-grown coyote.
Gate fees were waived on each of the fair days also, as the costs were covered by Hale Assembly of God Church on July 25; Don and Cheryl McDonell of Happy Acres Real Estate on July 26; Wilson Trucking & Excavating, LLC and Wilson & Sons Septic Cleaning on July 27; Scofield Real Estate on July 28; Rigg Land Surveying and TCA Insurance on July 29; and Hale Area FISH on July 30.
Along with such names as those above, which helped enhance the experience for attendees, pulling off the fair each year requires the combined efforts of the Iosco County Agricultural Society, countless volunteers, sponsors, patrons and participants.
On that note, and also included in the free attractions, the ability to admire the livestock and other animals shown at the occasion, is due to the hard work that local youth have put into raising and caring for them. Exhibitors of all ages also dedicate a lot of time and creativity to their projects which are displayed for fair attendees, in such categories as fine arts, home economics, floriculture, farm produce and photography.
Other fun featured throughout the 2022 Iosco County Fair, included carnival rides and games offered by Anderson Midways; food and merchandise vendors; face painting; a petting zoo; drawings for children’s bicycles and wagons; livestock, poultry and rabbit judging; side-by-side and mega truck races presented by Michigan Mud Jam; the crowning of Fair King Jim Dobson and Queen Lucille Lauria; the Night of Destruction event; a quilt raffle; flag dedication ceremony; bike safety event; tractor parade; cow pie bingo; root beer float social; livestock auction; FFA hog roast, chicken BBQ dinner and silent auction; off-road demo derby bump ‘n run; monster truck rides; agricultural education activities; a livestock animal costume parade; 4-H silent auction; pedal pull; cornhole tournament; scavenger hunt; and a talent contest.
Sharing a summary of his experience to the fair’s Facebook page, was Jim Brandstatter, who referred to it as a “visit to a great American tradition.”
He described his appreciation for the efforts of the young people who raised the various farm animals shown at the fair, and the vital information posted over each of the pens, such as the starting and finishing weights, home farms and the names – his favorite, he shared, being “Elvis Pigsley.”
“These youngsters were so very nice also, if a child wanted to pet the animal, they’d get the animal up and move it near the edge of the pen so the kids could get a feel and pet them,” he stated. “If you wanted any information about the animal, they were polite and gave you from A to Z how their prized porker took the blue ribbon.”
Brandstatter went on to detail the delicious treats and his successful attempt to win a stuffed animal during a dart game at the midway.
“When we left, we were both kind of energized by the experience,” he noted of himself and his fair companion. “And, as I was driving home, it struck me that tradition, in this country, ought to be respected and experienced. As we walked through the fair, everyone had a smile on their face. Everyone was enjoying themselves. The young people handling the animals were very responsible and polite. It’s very clear that raising these creatures is hard work. It takes time and commitment. These kids had that in abundance.”
In this rural area, he continued, he was reminded of values, community, respect, enjoying life and principles. Although he didn’t want to make too much of it, he added that his time at the county fair affected him in a very positive way.
With all of the negative things going on in the world, such as animosity and political discord – none of which he observed during the event – Brandstatter expressed that a return to safe and stable sounds pretty good to him. “I found this experience at the Iosco County Fair exported me to a different place. A place I found much more pleasant.”
He further stated that he came away from the fairgrounds in Hale with hope. “If you’ve got some time, and you find a county fair nearby, give it a visit. My bet is, you won’t be disappointed.”