'Back to basics': Shelburne exhibition gets creative after departure of midway operator

Organizers for the Shelburne County Agricultural Exhibition had to get creative with their events this year after the midway company who sets up the fair rides said they will not be returning.

East Coast Amusements, the midway company, says the event is not large enough to turn a profit, but organizer Debi Hill said there will still be plenty of excitement for all ages.

"I think it's going to be our best year yet. We have so much more than the rides, and the rides weren't making any money here anyway," said Hill.

Hill said there will still be lots for everyone to do, including bouncy castles, inflatable attractions and a Velcro wall.

2-year dispute

This decision follows a two-year conflict between the midway and organizers after the midway would pack up and leave early after people had already bought their bracelets, which cost $22 a person.

"Sometimes they wouldn't start until three in the afternoon," Hill said.

Nathan Smithers, manager for East Coast Amusements, said the exhibition had gotten too small to make a profit. 

"It's not economically feasible," said Smithers. "By the end of the week we weren't making ends meet for paying our staff and our generator fuel."

Community response

Fans of the exhibition are disappointed over the lack of rides this year, but Hill said there has been a lot of great response from the community.

Hill took to the exhibition's Facebook page for ideas to make up for the lack of carnival rides. Suggestions like a Texas hold'em table, pie-eating contests and bobbing for apples filled the comment section.

It "was definitely more positive than negative," said Hill. "We're going back to the basics."

Youth involvement

Organizers saw the lack of rides as an opportunity to offer more interactive events for young people to enjoy.

"The more we thought about it the more we realized it's OK the rides aren't coming," Hill said.

She said there will be some unique attractions designed to get young people engaged in agriculture and farming.

"We do have a farm setting where the kids can go in and interact with the animals there," said Hill. "We have goats and donkeys and ponies and calves."

Organizers are also hoping for the return of a mechanical bull that was a hit last year.

"Grown men who were expert horsemen couldn't ride the thing, but a little girl won it."

The Shelburne County Agricultural Exhibition starts Aug. 8 and runs to Aug. 12.