The Hawaii County Fair will bring familiar family favorites and new features to Hilo when it returns this week for its 69th year.
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. today and “hopefully we can stay open until midnight, weather permitting, of course,” said Kelton Chang, president of the Hawaii County Fair Foundation and fair coordinator.
The fair is set to run 5:30 p.m.-midnight today and Friday, 10 a.m.-midnight Saturday and 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday on the grounds of the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
Local entertainers are also scheduled to perform throughout the four days, and the Big Island Little Keiki Contest is slated for 10:30 a.m.-noon Saturday for babies born between Sept. 21, 2018, and Sept. 22, 2019. There are 50 slots available.
There are a number of food vendors, as well as commercial and nonprofit booths.
“The Hilo Jaycees started it up, and they ran it until the 66th year and they shut down,” partly because of lack of membership, Chang said.
To keep the fair going, Chang, a member of the Jaycees himself for 24 years, said he created the Hawaii County Fair Foundation, a nonprofit organization now hosting the fair for the third year.
“So my promise was, since the fair itself generates money, is to put it back into the community and also put back into the fair,” he said.
This year, the food booths were upgraded and replaced with modified portable storage containers, which Chang said was a “long and tedious three-year project.”
Chang said they previously used a wooden structure that was “probably four decades old. It was time for it to be put to rest.”
Gates also were upgraded.
“We have a lot of elderly seniors that come and volunteer to sell (tickets), and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, (but) we’ve had some astonishing hot weather … so with the upgrade of those booths, we have installed (air conditioning) units,” Chang said.
Hopefully, “I can give them the comforts that they need to stay there and help us out,” he continued. “Because it is tiring, and it is hot, and I don’t want them passing out. It’s been so hot these past couple of months. And I appreciate all of their help. It’s hard to find volunteers — dedicated ones. … so it’s a blessing when we have people from the community to come out and help.”
Carnival company EK Fernandez also returns with three new rides for fairgoers: The Lolli Swings, a family swing ride that allows two people to ride next to each other; Balloon Race, which features spinning tubs controlled by the rider, and as the ride spins, it lifts in the air; and the merry-go-round, which Chang said hasn’t been here since 2002.
This year, however, Chang said the fair won’t have a circus attraction.
“I usually bring in a special attraction, and I’ve done if for maybe three years now to change it up, but this year I stopped because next year is our 70th,” he said. “So it’s the 70th anniversary, and I’m trying to up it a little more. So I’m going to bring back the circus and some other acts, just so that we can have something every day, just to celebrate 70 years.”
Chang said the fair typically draws about 28,000 people.
“A lot of local people on the Big Island, they don’t have the opportunity to go off the island,” Chang said. “And I found that it’s important to have these kinds of events in Hilo so the community can enjoy, get away from their stresses and day-to-day lives.”
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hawaii County Fair
Thursday, Friday and Saturday: Gate prices are $7 for adults and $3 for keiki ages 4-11.
Sunday: $3.50 for adults, $1.50 for keiki ages 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.
Rides, the price of which are separate from the entry fees, will be discounted from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and all day Sunday.
Ride credits are 10 cents each, and regular costs of rides run between 35 credits ($3.50) and 75 credits ($7.50).
5:30-6 p.m.: Puna Taiko Drummers
7-8 p.m.: Lightning Larry Dupio
9-10 p.m.: Kolea
5:30-6:30 p.m.: Bobby Reno
7-8 p.m.: Average Joe’s
9-10 p.m.: Lloyd Longakit and Friends
10:30-11:30 p.m.: Soul Town
10:30 a.m.-noon: Little Keiki Contest
12:30-1:30 p.m.: To‘a Here
2-3 p.m.: To be announced
3:30-4:30 p.m.: Waiakea Intermediate Ukulele Band Booster Club
5:30-6:30 p.m.: Brittany Paiva
7-8 p.m.: Girl’s Nite Out Band
8:30-9:30 p.m.: Girl’s Nite Out Band
10-11 p.m.: Dboy Paiva
10-11 a.m.: KBIG karaoke contest
12:30-1:30 p.m.: Ka Lea Wai — Waiakea High School Hawaiian Club
2:30-3:30 p.m.: Saizen Ochi and Colby Kudo (Waiakea High School)
4:30-5:30 p.m.: Indigenous One
6:30-7:30 p.m.: The Kipapa Sisters
8:30-9:30 p.m. Off the Grid