Delaware News

Infrastructure woes take back seat to fair fun

Campaign to increase bed tax goes on break as Delaware County gets hyped for fair, Jug Day

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JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS
Drivers complete practice runs Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in preparation for the Little Brown Jug. The 69th edition of the Jug will be run Sept. 18. The focus effect in this image was created using a tilt-shift lens.
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This year's Delaware County Fair will take place amid fair officials' fight for more funding for infrastructure repairs.

Don't expect to hear about that from fair officials during fair week -- unless you ask.

"They're here to have a good time. They're not here to be politicked," said Bill Lowe, general manager of the fair. "If they want that, they can go to the Democrat booth or the Republican booth."

This year's Delaware County Fair runs Sept. 13-20 at the county fairgrounds off Pennsylvania Avenue in Delaware.

The fair's governing board, led by Vice President H.C. "Chip" Thomson, has been making a push for a 3-percent bed-tax increase in recent months. The tax on Delaware County hotel rooms would raise an estimated $190,000 annually that would be used to upgrade infrastructure at the fairgrounds.

Fair officials have speculated that the fair's main attraction, the Little Brown Jug harness race, could leave for greener pastures in the future if funds for renovations cannot be found.

Lowe said some of the fairgrounds' issues, such as crumbling roads and outdated barns, will not need to be pointed out to visitors. Other problems, such as outdated electric and water lines, are less apparent.

The bed-tax increase, which would raise the total lodging-tax rate to 9 percent in Berkshire Township, Delaware and Orange Township, would need approval from the state legislature and a signature from the governor. Fair officials said they don't expect the legislature to take any action on the proposal until at least November.

While he stressed the need for additional funding for facility improvements, Lowe said visitors to the fairgrounds during fair week will still get a great show.

This year's fair marks the return of evening concerts featuring national touring acts. Lowe said the fair had scrapped nighttime concerts in recent years in favor of daytime concerts with lesser-known acts in order to cut costs.

Lowe said there was enough interest and demand from longtime fairgoers to bring the evening concerts back.

The Willis Clan, a 14-member family band that recently competed on America's Got Talent, will perform its blend of Irish and country music and dancing at 7:30 p.m. on the fair's opening night.

Lowe described the clan as "the most talented group of young people I think I've ever seen."

"You talk about wholesome, family entertainment -- this is it," he said.

Local rock band Phil Dirt and the Dozers will close the fair with a 7:30 p.m. show Sept. 20.

Along with a revamped concert schedule, the fair will add a few new events to its eight-day motor-sports lineup.

Lowe said he's especially excited about the mini-tractor pull, set for 7 p.m. Sept. 15.

"They're high-powered tractors, but they're much smaller than the tractors people normally see in these types of events," he said.

While the changes have generated some excitement, Lowe said, as always, the running of the Little Brown Jug is generating the most buzz. The 69th edition of the race -- one leg of harness racing's Triple Crown -- will be held Thursday, Sept. 18. The Jug will be nationally televised this year, airing from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18 on CBS Sports Network.

"People know when it gets close to September the first, the Jug's right around the corner," he said.

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