Comments About Wyoming County Fair Aired at Commissioners Meeting

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By Rick Hiduk

(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)

Though the Wyoming County Commissioners have no controlling interest over the annual Wyoming County Community Fair, they are well aware that Facebook has become the social medium by which opinions about the time-honored Labor Day weekend event has been digested and publicly interpreted in recent years. After hearing comments from Dawn Rogers of Tunkhannock and rebuttals from fair board secretary Pam Burke, the commissioners expressed hope for better collaboration.

We all love the fair. We were there every night last year,” said Commissioner Tom Henry, noting that the county supports the event in a number of ways without making any decisions. “I think we’re all in agreement that it’s to everybody’s advantage to involve more people.”

Acting on Rogers’ request to speak before the commissioners, Henry also contacted some fair board members to allow them to be represented. Rogers was basically suggesting that the fair is on the verge of failure, and Burke countered that nothing could be farther from the truth.

Rogers (above) stated that the Kiwanis Club of Tunkhannock members “didn’t want their name on it anymore.” Burke said that the split was amicable, that a strong partnership still exists, and that most Kiwanis members are still in agreement.

After many decades of the fair being run solely by the Kiwanis, the fair board was reorganized several years ago and bylaws were changed to prevent any board member from benefiting financially from the event. Burke noted that the Kiwanis group maintains a rent-free building on the fair grounds in Meshoppen Township and, like many other local non-profit organizations, successfully conducts most of its annual fundraising during the fair.

Rogers maintained that the fair board is on the brink of losing its tax-exempt status. Exeter Township supervisor Rick Wilbur questioned the validity of her remark, which Rogers was unable to substantiate, saying only that she had “overheard it.” Burke suggested that what Rogers might be referring to is the board’s efforts to obtain a state sales tax exemption, at which they have not yet been successful.

Rogers’s primary contention is that the current board is too heavily centered on Meshoppen and Laceyville and that some of its members reside in neighboring Susquehanna County, a common occurrence in an area where Bradford County also abuts towns with Wyoming County zip codes extending beyond its rural borders.

All of the county should be involved. Not just the Burke family,” Rogers stated. “We are the ‘Wyoming County’ Fair. Anybody who is on the fair board should be from Wyoming County.”

Rogers suggested that every municipality in the county should be approached by the board and asked to elect a representative. She also would like to see the fair board office relocated to the courthouse, the Wyoming County Historical Society, or someplace more central to the county.

Rogers said that she attended a fair board meeting in the fall of 2018 to express her concerns and to ask for a seat on the board. She said she never heard from the board again. Burke said that, during the course of lengthy discussion with Rogers at that meeting, Rogers had indicated that she had no interest in volunteering during the fair itself, a charge that Rogers denies.

Burke conceded that she and several other board members were originally residents of Wyoming County but have since moved to properties in Susquehanna County. Nonetheless, their mission of providing opportunities for rural Wyoming County residents and especially youths via 4-H remains intact.

The Wyoming County Fair is not here to make a profit. We are here to sustain what we have,” Burke stated, noting that the agricultural landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade. While as few as two dairy farms remain within the county’s borders, other livestock such as goats and sheep are being raised in greater numbers, and organic farming has seen a growth in popularity.

Involving people from outside the county strengthens the fair and makes it more attractive to people in other counties and other states, Burke continued. That approach is similar to that of boards in other counties that collaborate as the PA State Association of County Fairs, as well as with the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau (EMVB), which specifically provides funding for promotion of the fair beyond a 50-mile radius from the fair grounds.

People are coming to the Wyoming County Community Fair from New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Vermont. “You know if they’re coming from Ohio to see a concert that they’re not driving home that night,” she remarked.

That’s called ‘putting heads in beds,’” commissioner Judy Mead said in reference to the goal of increasing hotel and bed & breakfast bookings by the EMVB, of which Mead is a board member.

We are obviously doing something right that people throughout the state are modeling their fairs and other events after ours,” Burke concluded. “The Wyoming County Fair is still open today because of the agreement between the Kiwanis and the current fair board.”

Henry thanked both for attending and providing commentary and asked the media to help spread the word that input and involvement are welcome from all corners of the county and that volunteers are needed for every aspect of the event.

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Managing Editor of EndlessMtnLifestyles.com, dedicated to providing interesting information about life in the Endless Mountains region of northern Pennsylvania. The website - a meager investment with no immediate return - is meant to be community-based and to reflect the varied tastes of its readers. Submissions from legitimate organizations and event coordinators are welcome and will be published as space and time allow. This website is operated by Endless Mountains Media Services. I am seeking submissions of news stories, promotional press releases, and photos for posting with full recognition for the submitter. I am also hoping to build a base of correspondents who would enjoy being my "ears and eyes" in parts of the four county region where news is happening. I am also a self-employed media consultant and freelance writer/editor, providing professional services for businesses, municipalities, and organizations for which retaining a full time staff writer is not a viable option.

3 Comments

  1. Beatrice B Wygrala on

    My husband and I have attended the tractors pulls at the fair for several years and since the Kiwanis have relinquished their name to another group the announcing and public address system is horrendous. One ( the announcer) does not talk while a tractor is pulling, one knows what rank is held by the tractor and driver and the speakers are turned on so that attendees are able to hear the announcer.

    I had written a letter pointing these things out several years ago and things have gone from bad to worse. Let the person/people involved with the tractor pulling event manage that part of the Wyoming County Fair and the board stay out of the event. My theory has always been, “the fewer people sticking their hands in the better the results”.

  2. Lloyd Overfield on

    I think the board members and all other involved individuals should be commended for the immense amount of time, work, and no doubt occasional aggravation which they donate to the fair, especially considering that the grounds are available and used for so much more than just the fair. As for satisfying Dawn Rogers’ concerns, if the name were adjusted to the “Community Fair, in Wyoming County” everything would be fine. To exclude people from outside of Wyoming County from all involvement, other than buying a ticket, would be the absolute and immediate death of the fair.

  3. Since I’ve moved to PA 6 yrs ago, I’ve seen a big decline in this fair. Far fewer vendors.
    The admission charged is too high. Lower it and what you lose in revenue, you will easily make up in the volume of people who could then afford to go. I’ve done marketing for years, and your fair has one if not the highest admission ticket. People with several children cannot afford to come.
    Spoke to several vendors any many people. They all said the same thing, rentals are too high and so are admission prices. The vendors have to charge very high prices for their food etc. $6.00 for a funnel cake.$5.00 for waffle ice cream. 3 kids mom & dad that’s $25.00 for ice cream plus $16.00 at least for admission. You do the math, 41.00 for very very little.
    Board members should put the people first and egos last.

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