Fair lights shining at AMS for second year

HAMPTON — If life is too slow where you are, take a ride to Hampton to take in the lights, sights, sounds and smells of the Georgia State Fair.

For the second year, the 162-year-old event is calling the Atlanta Motor Speedway home to boost attendance. A fall favorite in Macon since 1851, what was a week-long event was so much a part of the middle Georgia landscape every October that the first day of the fair was an official school holiday for Bibb County students.

However, crowds dwindled in the 1990s when the Georgia National Fair offered competition down I-75 south in Perry. The fall of 2011 was the first that hay wasn’t scattered on the grounds at Macon’s Central City Park near I-16, tents hoisted, rides assembled and powdered sugar sprinkled on hot fried funnel cakes. Officials tried to hold the fair in the spring but it just wasn’t the same.

Even colder, windier weather created by last year’s Hurricane Sandy couldn’t keep the crowds from the fair food, rides and attractions for the inaugural event at AMS. This year is expected to be even bigger, with even more to see and experience.

The schedule kicks off Friday, Oct. 25, at 4:30 p.m. with a Halloween magic show and The Marvelous Mutts, billed as a “canine” spectacular that showcases some of the world’s finest doggie athletes.

All the dogs are adopted from shelters and rescue groups and they flip and fly to snatch flying discs out of the air and race through obstacle courses. The Marvelous Mutts can be seen in the midway.

The rest of the fair also offers a Grizzly Experience, an exhibition of Tonk, a 7-feet tall, 600-pound bear, and cubs Yogi and Booboo; a Banana Derby, featuring Capuchin monkeys racing on dogs; Rhinestone Roper, a showman cowboy and his horse performing stunts and tricks; and a petting zoo.

There will be clowns, a sea lion show and a “freak show” the likes of which “Louis” and “Flossie” could never have imagined at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. FreakShow Deluxe is billed as a dark vaudevillian extravaganza and winner of the 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival’s Award for Best Cabaret or Circus.

The attractions will continue through the last day of the fair Sunday, Nov. 3.

A baking contest will see winners in all age groups Saturday, Nov. 2, from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. There is no registration, said officials, just bring in baked goods to the Are You Crafty tent. Bakers should include a typed recipe with each entry.

The baking categories are pecan pie, cookies and peach cobbler. Entrants can bring one pie, one cobbler or 10 cookies. The pie and cobbler winners will each take home $100. There will be a $50 prize in each age group in the cookie division.

Bakers must be 19 or older to enter the pie or cobbler category but the cookie bakers can enter according to age — 5 to 12 in one, 13 to 18 in the other.

Prefer grilling? There will be a Kikkoman Grill-Off Nov. 2. How about YoYos? The Georgia YoYo Contest will be held on the main stage Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Registration opens at 9:30 a.m. and closes at 10:45 a.m., with competition beginning at 11 a.m. Awards will be presented at 4:45 p.m. Go to georgiayoyocontest.com to pre-register.

Live musical entertainment is also expected to draw crowds with performers Molly Hatchet, Shane Lee, Kelly Ballard, S.O.S., Jordan Allena, Josh Thompson, The Howling Tongues and Los Nortenos De Ojinaga providing tunes across several genres.

For the folks who flock to the fair for the fantastic rides, there is a list on the www.georgiastatefair.org website that also includes height restrictions so families can plan accordingly. There are 17 “kiddie” rides and 27 “big” rides.

The same website outlines admission prices and information on ride wristbands. Parking is free but VIP parking is available for a fee. All concerts, shows and special events are included in the price of admission, which is $10 for patrons 13 and older to 59; $5 for kids 5 to 12 and seniors 60 and older. Kids 4 and under get in free.

All active military personnel can get in for $5 with a valid identification card. Ride wristbands available for unlimited rides on the midway are $20 for any age, are valid from opening until closing each day and are sold at the ticket booths inside the fair.

Those prices are charged at the gate. However, there are discounts available through the website.