Forecast dry for Huron County Fair

NORWALK The Huron County Fair will remain dry for at least another year. Citing an in
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010



The Huron County Fair will remain dry for at least another year.

Citing an interest in keeping the fair family-friendly, Huron County Commissioners decided not to support a liquor permit for the Aug. 17-22 event.

"We still believe the focus should be on the kids," Huron County commissioner Mike Adelman said. "We believe that is how the fair is driven -- by the 4-H and FFA -- and the sale of beer does not drive it in that direction. It drives it more towards an adult-entertainment venue."

Looking for a way to bring in additional revenue, the Huron County Fair board voted to explore allowing a beer tent this year.

Other county fairs have turned to beer sales to cover rising operational costs.

Introducing beer at the Ottawa County Fair three years ago brought in about $10,000 more annually, which was sorely needed, said Jon Overmyer, Ottawa County Fair Board treasurer.

Higher building maintenance, energy and staffing costs are a fact of life, and fair boards must either find new revenue sources or increase the cost of admission, he said.

With fair attendance down about 18 percent from 2007 to 2008, Ottawa County still saw an 8 percent increase in beer sales at the fairgrounds last year, Overmyer said.

Beer tents may be money-makers, but Huron County officials said they can also brew trouble.

The main downside of selling beer is it creates "liability issues" and can lead to belligerence and drunken driving, officials said.

At a time when the Huron County Sheriff's office has cut back dramatically because of a more than $800,000 reduction to its budget, stepping up enforcement at the fair could prove difficult.

"We are very short-handed and have limited resources," Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard said. "I was (also) just concerned about having a beer tent at the fair. I wasn't sure if that was the right venue or not."

Stretched thin this year, the sheriff's office is scraping by with fewer deputies and other key personnel. Howard said he would have tried to satisfy the wishes of the fair board if they had backed selling beer. But partly on the recommendation of commissioners, the board did not push the issue. If they had, both the commissioners and sheriff would have had to sign off on it.

Huron County officials claim selling beer could complicate their fair, possibly creating unsavory conditions.

But Ottawa County fair organizers said beer sales have not changed their fair one iota.

Overmyer said except for a young woman who was busted with a beer tent identification bracelet that wasn't hers, the tent caused no problems.

"In fact, I think it's even been better since we went this route," Overmyer said.

Ottawa County' fair is July 20-26.

Erie County fair officials explored the idea of allowing beer sales last year but voted against it. Sandusky County officials also considered it in 2007 but opted for a dry fair.