OP-ED: Current board is destroying York Fair

Jeri Stumpf
Willow Street
Crowds make their way along the midway during the last day of the York Fair, Sunday September 15, 2013. Longtime fair director Cres Ottemiller died Tuesday. He was 87.

I am a native of York, Pennsylvania, who has lived in Lancaster County for the last 25 years.

Since I was was 3 or 4 years old, I have attended the York Fair every year. That would be for the last 70-plus years.

I remember vividly as a small boy, climbing on the trains (train engines, cabooses, etc.), tanks and other military equipment near the exhibition hall, brought in specifically for the "free" entertainment of the kids.

I also remember the fair was everywhere, taking up the entire fairgrounds. Food vendors, games and rides were also everywhere. If you couldn't find the standby and unusual food items to suit your taste, you din't look hard enough.

Animals of every kind, arts and crafts made by York County artisans, and locally grown produce filled all the exhibition halls to the brim. The crowds were so large all over the fairgrounds, including under the grandstand, it was hard to move around.

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It was even worse on Saturdays, when the parking lots would be filled with buses, many from Baltimore. Memorial Hall was filled with exhibits and people, too.

The last few years there have been fewer and fewer food vendors. Fewer and fewer exhibitors. Less and less of everything. In fact, less and less York Fair.

What a crime. It is now just a big carnival with open space dwarfing whatever else is there. No vendors and no crowds, and no fun anymore. No wonder attendance is down.

I blame the management board of the York Fair for destroying a 250-year old tradition that means so much to so many from York.

I believe the original founders of the York Fair would "turn over in their graves" if they knew how management has destroyed what they started.

Rather than maintain or reduce fees for vendor space, the board continued to raise fees for vendors, over and over again, until it was no longer profitable for them to be at the fair.

Increased fees for everything else beyond inflation caused lower attendance. As there was "less and less" York Fair, fewer and fewer people attended. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Unlike McDonald's rise to "billionaire status," from a small hamburg joint, through a business philosophy of lowering the prices and selling more, the York Fair board's philosophy was keep raising the price on vendors until no one comes to the York Fair anymore.

Then it changes the name to the York State Fair and move it to July, when it is 99 degrees out. Yeah. That will solve your problems.

The current York Fair board should all resign before they kill the York Fair for good.

They should be replaced with individuals with common sense and a passion for saving this once amazing event and historic treasure.

This isn't rocket science folks.