EDITORIAL: A fresh start for the York Fair

York Dispatch

Tradition is big at the York Fair.

After all, an event doesn't survive for 253 years without building up a history. From the tagline "America's First Fair" to a run broken only by the Civil War and the influenza epidemic of 1918, the York Fair is a tradition intent on survival.

To do that, it needs to adapt. And, let's face it, the York Fair has needed to make some changes for a while.

The rides, the concerts, the animal, the exhibits, the contests, the food — that's all great. But each year it seems there are fewer exhibits, fewer food stands, fewer big names at the grandstand.

More:York Fair will move to summer in 2020

More:Attendance at rainy York Fair down more than 100,000

And that means there are fewer people going to the fair each year.

In 2018, attendance dropped by more than 115,000 people, from 565,483 in 2017 to  450,173 this year.

Sure, the weather was horrible. Downpours stopped the rides and kept fairgoers away, even when the admission price was waived. York County was dealing with a lot of flooding between Sept. 7 and Sept. 17, when the fair was going on.

Jayme Livingston, 6, left, and his sister McKennah 3, of Red Lion, grab the same rubber ducky while trying for a prize on the last day of the York Fair, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.  John A. Pavoncello photo

The thing is, the weather is often horrible that time of year. In September in York, it seems it's either raining or over 90 degrees.

And it's getting worse. September is the most active month for hurricanes, according to The Weather Channel, and they will only get worse as climate change continues to increase the temperature of the oceans and the amount of water in the air.

Over the past few years, York has been in the path of a number of hurricanes and tropical storms as they peter out after making landfall along the East Coast.

Parents and kids gather at the York Fair children's midway Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. The fair continues through Sunday, Sept. 16. Bill Kalina photo

To go along with the weather problems, the timing of the fair has meant that everyone from 4-H kids to bakers participating in contests to the people working the gates has to take time off work or skip school to be there during the day.

On Nov. 15, the York County Agricultural Society Board of Directors announced the big change: In 2020, the York Fair will be held July 24-Aug. 2.

Brian Blair, chief operating officer of the Agricultural Society, said the move will allow the fair to bring back some older traditions that have "perhaps disappeared in recent years."

It will also allow students to spend weekdays at the fair, even going back more than once. It will let those 4-H kids stay with their animals without missing school. 

It will also give the fair a larger selection of entertainers to book when the fair falls at the peak of summer concert runs instead of at the end. 

Sure, there will still be weather problems. July sees its share of downpours, and heat advisories will be a new problem for fairgoers, albeit one that will be a boon for stands selling frozen drinks and ice cream.

But a change in date could be the ticket to reinvigorating the traditions of the York Fair and a chance to invent some new ones. 

We're looking forward to a fresh start for America's First Fair.