76th Chelsea Community Fair celebrates agriculture and community
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com file photo
Keeping old-school traditions alive, some popular events are the tractor pulls, demolition derbies, parade, horse shows, lumberjack shows and kid's camps, a livestock exhibition and auction, and friendly competitions that showcase the skills and creative talents of locals, from the biggest vegetables to the best needlepoint. A decent-sized carnival of rides and games is set up by Mid America Shows, a Fair Queen is crowned, and thousands of people a day gather to socialize and enjoy late summertime outdoors.
The Chelsea Community Fair is many family-friendly community events all-in-one. Refer to the complete schedule for everything.Fair Manager Jeff Layher, of Parts Peddler Auto Supply in Chelsea, was just a boy when he first attended the Chelsea Community Fair. After helping run it with the Board of Directors and committee members for over 30 years now, he has watched a lot of other people grow up with the fair. When asked what he looks forward to the most every year, he says it is the kids.
He is especially proud of the young people who are among the many fair participants. 4-H kids care for the animals, Youth Horse Shows showcase young talent, older teens can do the tractor pulls, Boy Scouts sell concessions; these are a few of the ways young people engage.
"They might start out by taking care of the animals and, as they get older, they get involved in tractor pulls (you have to be 15). At 18 they can do the demolition derbies. You know, I had kids in the store just yesterday who were 16. They just can't wait to be old enough to get a derby car," Layher says enthusiastically.
A livestock auction brings in a significant amount of revenue for participants. And he says it is common for money to go toward saving up for college tuition.
Of the many popular offerings, the Grandstand events are the hands-down crowd favorite. "Truck pulling and demolition events" rank highest in a popularity poll posted on the fair's homepage.
"Our Grandstand events are state-quality. I mean, you've got to go a long way to see a demolition derby or a tractor pull like we put on. They are free after you pay the admission at the gate, but those shows really support the entire fair because they bring in excellent attendance. The stands are full every night," Layher says.
Layher says highlighting the agricultural community is an "integral part" of Chelsea's fair. One major feature of the fair is the exhibition of farm animals in multiple buildings at the fairgrounds. Cattle, horses, poultry, goats, pigs, rabbits and other creatures will be judged and awarded over the course of the fair.
The Nature's Creation of Life barn will likely bring baby animals into the world. "We've been lucky for have live births at the fair, for the past few years," Layher says.
And produce growers also show off their best specimens, crossing their fingers that they have the biggest and best tomatoes or squashes, and so on.
Additional exhibitions will feature creativity, hobbies, and community talent. Across the community, people are getting ready to show off their art, crafts, sewing work, antique collections, flowers, baked goods, photography, and more.
The Chelsea Fairgrounds are sporting some new capital improvements, thanks to the fair's success in getting people through the gate in previous years.
"We built a brand new bath house, this year, with bathrooms and showers for our tractor pullers and derby guys to use," and "last year, we put up a brand new fence," Layher explains.
"With all of the buildings and such, it's a pretty impressive piece of property," which he says is "well maintained, clean, and safe."
Fortunately, the fair has been able to make capital improvements and keep popular offerings despite state funding completely disappearing, back in 2009. Previous AnnArbor.com coverage discusses how they coped.
"It was a bonus to have the state match some of our funding, but I understand. We saw the writing on the walls. It was coming, so we were ready," Layher says. "We pay all the prize money out of our pocket. Some fairs have cut that, but we didn't," he adds.
"We never missed a beat. We're pretty proud of that fact. It is because we have awesome support from the town," Layher concludes.