County fair focuses on old-fashioned family fun.

August 24, 2022

Siblings Lauren and Gavin and Macher, ages 9 and 12, of Pentwater.

County fair focuses on old-fashioned family fun.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — Thousands flock to the Oceana County Fair every year to view the farm animals; ride the carnival rides; and enjoy the tasty fair food.

This year is the 151st annual event. The Oceana County Fair is the second longest running fair in Michigan.

Entry Day for 4-H animals 

Tuesday, Aug. 23, was Entry Day when the 4-H children brought in their animals to the barns. 

“This is my first year — it’s pretty fun,” said Juliet Koegel, 11, of Whitehall, who is showing roosters.

Dillon Birkhofer, 10, of Montague.

“You get to have a lot of animals and you make a lot of money,” said Dillon Birkhofer, 10, of Montague. “This is my first year doing lambs on my own. I was a little buddy for two years.” 

“I love all the people at the fair — they’re really nice,” said Sophia Beishuizen, 15, of Rothbury, who is in her fifth year of 4-H. “They always lift you up and make you happy. It’s just a fun place to be. I

Aspen Alvesteffer, 8, of Hart.

enjoy the competition of showing.”

“This is my first year showing a steer,” said Kaylin Burmeister, 10, of Shelby, who has been in 4-H for five years. 

Aspen Alvesteffer, 8, of Hart is showing cows for her first year, but has worked with pigs three years prior, she said. “You can meet new friends and you can learn about animals.”

“You get to hang out with friends and you get to hang out with animals,” said Jayna Burmeister, 13, of Shelby. “My dad always says, it’s a good life experience. It teaches you that it’s OK when an animal goes. It still hurts, but you get used to it after a while.” 

“I don’t think I have ever missed the fair my entire life,” said Tracey Butler of Shelby, one of many adults helping the kids. Her family has been involved in the fair for three or more generations, she said. From horses, to rabbits, to pigs, she’s worked with just about every type of animal the fair has to offer. She is currently working with steers with her nieces.

“These are probably the best people you can meet in Oceana County right here,” said Butler. “Every parent here is here to help the kids. It’s just good folks here. Often you only see these people once a year, and you just pick up where you left off.”

Long-time volunteer

Carl Wiegand, 85, has been involved in the fair for 66 years. Wiegand, who serves as vice president of the fair board and oversees the fairgrounds’ electrical system, said he’s observed many transitions over the years. “I’ve seen a lot of changes from the old timber barn that we tore down and replaced it with the new horse barn. I’ve been around a long time. I just keep coming back — maybe that’s what keeps me going.”

Juliet Koegel, 11, of Whitehall.

Carl Wiegand in the grandstands.

A fair legend missed and remembered.

This year’s fair has a bittersweet tone as long-time fair board president Clancy Aerts passed away just a month ago. Aerts served as the president for 17 years, said current Oceana County Fair Board President Paul Erickson. 

Carnival rides, food and games.

Elliott’s Amusements had the midway set up with fun rides and games last week prior to the fair and then re-opened the midway evening Tuesday, Aug. 23, to run through Saturday, Aug. 27. Food vendors also offer their tasty carnival cuisine of cotton candy, elephant ears, corndogs and more.

The late Clancy Aerts, long-time fair board president, with Rita and Jim Elliott of Elliott Amusements.

Harness racing and the grandstands

Harness racing at the grandstand with musical entertainment kicked off the fair Tuesday evening. Harness races also occurred the week prior to the fair. The Hart fairgrounds offer one of the best racing tracks in the state, said Erickson. 

“We had some serious racing — well over $150,000 in purse money for three nights of harness racing on the track,” said Erickson. The plan next year is to offer beer and wine sales in the grandstand, he said. Spectators may also be able to place wagers on the horses eventually.

“Next year, it is very possible there will be handheld betting on county tracks with video, so that this racing could be bet on anywhere in the world. Michigan is in a resurgence of the harness racing industry. The industry will be moving racing to county tracks, because no one is interested in building a brand-new huge race track facility like Muskegon had just to have it collapse.”

Erickson said he is contemplating offering box seats in the grandstands for future horse races and concerts possibly. “Next year, I think we may have race dates outside of the fair. So we may have July race dates or September race dates.”

The 110-year-old grandstand building offers a seating capacity of 900 with a capacity of 500 in the bleachers across from it.

“Our fair — being as old as it is — has that multigenerational farm family that works so well together. They’ve gotten that experience from their grandparents and their great great grandparents — and that has brought all these young kids back to show their animals and be a part of the fair. It’s the biggest asset that we’ve got — our families.”

The carnival midway opens at 2 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 24 and 25, and 1 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26 and 27. The Bump N Run Off-Road Derby begins Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Grandstand, followed by the Demolition Derby.

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Sophia Beishuizen, 15, of Rothbury.

 

Kaylin Burmeister, 10, of Shelby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracey Butler of Shelby.

Jayna Burmeister, 13, of Shelby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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