Heat keeps attendance down at St. Joseph County 4-H Fair

Crowds were noticeably thin Thursday and Friday at the St. Joseph County 4-H Fair as temperatures hovered above 100 degrees.

Non-profits, which staff some eateries, have seen a significant drop in customers.

"[It’s] very bad, very slow. I think two years ago we had a hot spell in there, but not the whole week. Last year was a great year. It's too hot people don't want to get out," said Chuck Gollatz with Coalbush United Methodist.

Coalbush has closed its stand early because of few customers. Workers worry if people stay away for the final day on Saturday they may not be able to afford building improvements, mission funding or even its expenses for the fair.

"Most of our money goes to missions, so that won't happen. We won’t have it. What we hope is we have enough money to pay the bills for the operation expenses," said Gollatz.

Despite the heat, the Dairy Bar served fewer ice cream cones and cups than expected. On Wednesday they had trouble serving ice cream because the machines couldn't keep it solid enough.

"At night time we have trouble closing at 10 o'clock. This year it's nothing. At 7 o'clock the lines are big out there and the lines aren't even big out there," said Ken Kelley with the St Joseph County Dairy Association, which runs the Dairy Bar.

Money from ice cream sales goes toward 4-H prizes and scholarships. The awards aren't at risk, but the numbers are down.

"We'll probably make a little bit, but not as much as we did before, but it's nothing you can do about it. Just as long as you have enough to pay for our bills," said Kelley.

Fair organizers kept the rides open an hour longer on Friday to entice people to come after the sun has gone down. They may do the same Saturday if it is successful.

"Attendance is down temporarily right now. We found over last few days once it cools off a little bit and gets dark we get good crowds. The people are coming out," said Lee Slavinskas, President of the St Joseph county fair board.

For Coalbush volunteers, the longer hours had little impact as they try to earn money for their church.

"We look at the food we've had to prepare and we're not selling, we look at different supplies that have come in that we're not able to get rid of," said Gollatz. "Different shelters will benefit because we'll be able to give it.


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