The sights, tastes and smells of the Lee County Fair have come and gone for the 66th time.
The fair, which has remained basically the same throughout the years, was a success again in 2010, said Jim Sadler, president of the Lee County Fair Association.
However, admission to the fair was raised for the first time in more than 20 years, Sadler said.
Adults paid $3, and admission for children was $2.
“Of course, the economy is having some effect on us right now—for the past few years it has,” Sadler said. “We have held the same fees on the gate for over 20 years—$2 and $1. This year, we figured our numbers may be down a little bit, so we just had to go up a little to help with overhead.”
Seventy-five to 80 percent of the proceeds from the fair go back to the community to support Dixie Youth (city baseball leagues), the food bank and youth advocacy centers, Sadler said.
Other proceeds help provide the $6,600 in prizes offered at the fair, the entertainment and maintenance of the fairgrounds.
Fair attendance has been as high as 26,000, but Sadler said for the past few years, the average has been 12,000 to 16,000.
James Gang Entertainment out of Andalusia has provided the carnival rides for the past 12 years.
“They're a good, clean, family-owned operation,” Sadler said.
Patrick Kane Mezick, freshman at Southern Union, said he has been coming to the fair since he was 8 years old.
“Everything's going the same as every year,” Mezick said. “Stupid rednecks come out here for no reason.”
Although Mezick used this year's fair as a date night with his girlfriend, Meagan Wood, senior at Opelika High School, he said he usually comes with his family.
“Me and my dad come out here and just about win everything,” Mezick said.
Mezick's most memorable fair prize was a $50 iguana he won a few years ago, although he said it only lived for 15 minutes after the fair.
This year, Mezick's winning streak continued.
“He won me a rabbit, and I don't know what I'm gonna do with it,” Wood said. “It's in the trunk.”
“Her mom don't know about it yet,” Mezick added.
Wood said she has been coming to the fair since she was 15.
“It's the same thing every year,” Wood said. “They should change some stuff, but if you come every year, you know what you like.”
Ashley Hansana, 31, and her sister, Meagan Davis, 28, of Opelika, said they bring their brother Colt, 18, to the fair every other year.
Colt, who has a rare genetic disease called Cockayne syndrome, loves the fair, Davis said.
“I would say that his favorite thing is getting us to buy him useless toys that he will never use again and spending, like, $20 on a $4 stuffed animal,” Davis said, laughing. “Any activity where you spend $25 for, like, a Dollar Tree toy is always good bonding.”
Hansana said the whole family has been coming to the fair since they were children, but now, they just come to see Colt have a good time.
“Really, we're not even riding rides,” Davis said. “We'll put him on a ride and then we'll wave at him as he goes by. Getting him excited—that's the best part.”
The small size of the fair is perfect for Colt, Davis said.
“If you took him to a big fair like Montgomery or Birmingham, it's so big and so crowded,” Davis said. “He's kind of special needs, so this one's better to have less people, since no one's going to run by and knock him down. It's really easy for him.”
Although the fair hasn't changed much over the years, Sadler said people can expect some changes for the 2011 Lee County Fair.
“Next year, we're planning on running a one-night reduced armband and gate, probably on a Wednesday night,” Sadler said.
Unlimited ride armbands, which are generally $20, will be reduced to $15 on the reduced-fee night.
“That'll be well-advertised over at the University,” Sadler said. “We will probably do some more campus-type advertising next year because we're gonna be kind of targeting that market to come over maybe on a Wednesday night. That's a good night for college kids because it's not too close to game day.”
Sadler said the exhibit barn will probably be rebuilt next year as well.
“Come out and support us whenever we have a fair,” Sadler said. “All the money stays in the community.”
The fair takes place the first week in October.