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Hawaii County Fair offers new sights, sounds and tastes this year

The Hawaii County Fair will soon return to Hilo, bringing with it familiar family fun, as well as some new additions.

The fair will be held today-Sunday at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium fairgrounds.

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While it is now in its 68th year, this is just the second year the Hawaii County Fair Foundation has hosted the fair.

“The Hilo Jaycees ran it for 66 years and I was a part of the group,” foundation president and fair coordinator Kelton Chang said.

The Jaycees, however, could no longer keep the fair running without more members.

“There are a lot of nonprofits and a lot of athletic programs (and) senior programs that depend on the fair to raise their annual budgets for the year,” Chang said. “To just shut it down and basically say ‘I’m sorry, you’ve got to go find another way of getting your funding,’ I couldn’t see that.”

With change, though, comes a learning curve.

“When you do it with one organization and then you flip it and do it with another organization, there’s growing pains,” Chang said. “There’s things that you can do and can’t do, and we had to tighten our belt here and there, because funding is very important. When you have another organization that’s been doing it for so long, and then you get a new organization, we don’t have the funding that we had before.”

There are also new rules in place and a lot of new vendors after the foundation “had to not bring other vendors we had for 10, 15 years with us because unfortunately the paperwork wasn’t done correctly,” he said.

There is also a “pretty new lineup” of local food vendors this year, according to Chang. Four of last year’s 15 food vendors are returning and there will be 13 food vendors this year.

“It’s a whole different lineup of foods, so it’s pretty interesting,” Chang said.

But there will be plenty of familiar sights and activities returning.

The Big Island Baby Contest, for children under 1, starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

It’s free to enter and there will be cash prize and trophy awards. Pre-registration begins at 8:30 a.m.

Chang said they’re hoping to get 100 babies to participate in the contest.

According to Chang, the fair will feature a number of commercial booths, highlighting both local and statewide vendors, as well as nonprofit organizations. A local 4-H group will also have a petting zoo.

Chang said the Amazing Anastasini Circus will also return, bringing with it this year a ring master and comedy act, aerialists, a juggler and contortionist who does a bow and arrow act.

The circus will perform at 9 p.m. today and Friday and at 3, 6 and 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Carnival company EK Fernandez returns with two new rides for fair-goers: the Rockin Tug, a kiddie tug boat ride, and Zero Gravity, a spinning ride the company’s website describes as “a high speed, gravity-defying experience taken to new heights,” where riders stand against the wall as the cylinder begins to spin and rises in the air.

Rides, the price of which are separate from the entry fees, will be discounted from regular prices from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and all day Sunday.

Local entertainers are also scheduled to perform throughout the four days.

“That’s what the fair is about, bringing up-and -coming entertainers so that they can have a chance to showcase themselves and hopefully they can get a little more work,” Chang said. “So our goal this year is to make sure those guys get recognized.”

According to Chang, last year’s fair drew around 27,000 people and while he hopes for a larger crowd, Chang said because of recent Big Island natural disasters, he anticipates this year’s attendance to be around 20,000.

Not many people can afford to fly off the island “and see the kinds of carnivals and acts that we bring in,” he said.

The fair is a chance to offer something for local residents and visitors to come see and also provides the opportunity for residents and community groups to showcase themselves, said Chang.

For more information about the fair, visit facebook.com/HawaiiCounty FairFoundation/

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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Hawaii County Fair

Schedule

Today: 5:30 p.m.-midnight

Friday: 5:30 p.m.-midnight

Saturday: 10 a.m.-midnight

Sunday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Admission

Today, Friday and Saturday: Gate prices are $7 for adults, $3 for children ages 4-11.

Sunday: $3.50 for adults, $1.50 for children 4-11. Those who arrive during the first hour can get free admission by bringing two cans of food for a child’s admission and three for an adult admission.

Admission is free for children 3 and younger, as well as seniors 62 and older.

Entertainment lineup

Thursday

5:30-6 p.m.: Puna Taiko Drummers

7-8 p.m.: Larry Dupio Band

9-10 p.m.: Lloyd Longakit and Friends

Friday

6-7 p.m.: Girls Nite Out

7:30-8:30 p.m.: Average Joes

9:30-10:30 p.m.: Kuulei Music

Saturday

10:30-11:30 a.m.: Big Island Baby Contest

2:30-5 p.m.: WHS Hawaiian Club (Ka Leo Wai)

5:30-6:30 p.m.: Ben Kaili

7:30-8:30 p.m.: Herb Evangalista (Maunakea)

9:30-10:30 p.m.: Soul Town

Sunday

10:30-11:30 a.m.: Indigenous 5

12:30-1:30 p.m.: To‘a Here

2:30- 3:30 p.m.: Dream Hawaii Studio

4:30-5:30 p.m.: WIS Ukulele Band

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6:30-7:30 p.m.: Kipapas

8:30-9:30 p.m.: Off the Grid