The Bloomsburg Fair gates will open for the first time in two years tomorrow, and final preparations are underway down at the fairgrounds.
All of the vendors have arrived and have started to set up for what they hope will be a busy week. Gates open for Preview Day at 2 p.m. tomorrow. The official kickoff is at 9 a.m. Saturday morning when the gates open.
“We are about 80 percent ready at this point,” said Paul Reichart, president of the Bloomsburg Fair on Tuesday.
Maintenance crews and other fair workers having been working all week cleaning, setting up, and getting ready for the big crowds. Over 500 temporary, part-time jobs have been added to help staff the fair this year.
For the first time in the history of the Bloomsburg Fair, people will have to pay for admission on Preview Day. This is one of the changes to the fair after the 2011 flood forced fair officials to cancel last year’s event.
“In the end we are a business, and a business that needs money right now,” Reichart said.
The cost for admission on Friday is $3 and parking is free, which saves fairgoers $5. Reichart says that he has received very few complaints about the extra charge. Preview Day is historically a day that university students take advantage of because of the free admittance.
After the flood last year, the fair suffered $2.5 million dollars in damages, and the name of the game this year is to make up for those lost funds as much as possible, Reichart said.
Two buildings were knocked off their foundation due to the flood and when the rain subsided there were over three inches of sludge covering the fairgrounds. The fair did not receive any governmental assistance so they took out a loan for $1.4 million dollars, the payback on that loan to begin this year.
Regular admission to the fair has also been increased from $5 to $8 this year. This is on top of the $5 parking fee.
“This is one way for us to make up for some of those losses we faced last year.” Reichart said.
Even with the increase in price, Reichart still believes that the fair will bring in more people and more money than it ever has before.
“Sales should break records,” he said. “People want to see how we have managed to recover from the flood.”
He says that ticket sales thus far are “satisfactory,” and that many people will most likely purchase their tickets upon arrival.
The Bloomsburg Fair Association hopes to bring in over $500 thousand dollars by the end of the fair, Sept. 29.
In addition to just recovery, the Bloomsburg Fair has done a considerable amount of work on their infrastructure. Much of the insides of the Agriculture, Arts and Crafts, and Horticulture buildings have been completely restored with new wood.
A new feature, and one of the most visible changes to the fair, is the installation of the Sky Ride. This new attraction, which is now going to be a permanent fixture at the fair, takes riders from Gate 3 to the Leonard Street Gate. The cost is $3 per way or $5 round-trip.
“It’s going to be a tremendous hit,” said Rick Reithoffer, president of Reithoffer Shows, the company hired by the fair to bring in the rides. “It’s made for the people that come to the Bloomsburg Fair.”
For every dollar spent by fairgoers on the Sky Ride, the fair will profit 15 cents. Reichart says that it will hopefully draw in people who want to see the fair from a different angle.
Reithoffer, 62, who grew up in Dallas, Pa., has been coming to the fair with his father since he was four-years-old. This year he is happy to unveil a few new rides and says, “I am happy to see the fair back and better then it has ever been before.”
The weather, which proved not to be on the fair’s side last year, is what Reichart says will play a crucial role in the fair’s success this time around.
This article first appeared in The Voice on Sept. 20.