Erin fair adds entertainment tent in effort to boost attendance

ERIN – In a bid to attract more visitors and boost revenue, the Erin Fall Fair will feature a large entertainment tent this year, including a beer service area that will now operate in the evening hours.

Erin Agricultural Society (EAS) president Rod Perry said that while outdoor entertainment has been a big part of the fair, performers did not have shelter or proper lighting, and poor weather often discouraged spectators.

“The exhibits hall is too small, and we often had complaints about ‘loud’ bands,” said Perry.

“We felt that by creating a much larger beer tent/entertainment facility, we could provide an inviting musical environment that would appeal to our guests throughout the entire five-day fair.”

Apart from the truck and tractor pulls and the demolition derby, the fair had not been offering evening entertainment.

“Although these events have a large and loyal following, we believed we were missing an opportunity to attract new visitors who were seeking a different type of entertainment,” said Perry.

They have already booked headliners The Campfire Poets (pop hits), The Practically Hip (Tragically Hip tribute) and The Wanted (high-energy roots), with guest appearances by country singer Manny Blu.

The tent will be about 160-by-60 feet, with an outside patio area, accommodating up to 1,000 people.

It will be in the nook along the east fence line of the fairgrounds, parallel to Main Street, where the horseshoe pitch and dog show have been.

There will not be a separate area for beer drinkers. There will be food vendors in the big tent, and Perry said the fair expects to create a “family-friendly entertainment venue”.

There will still be some music and performances in the exhibits hall (including the talent show) but these acts will not be as loud.

EAS is taking over the fair beer tent from the Erin District Lions Club, which had operated it for many years. It had been closing at dark, even though the fair continued until 11pm, but it will now be open later.

Perry said EAS expects the new set-up will reduce an ongoing, illegal alcohol smuggling and abuse problem on the fairgrounds.

“We believe, with the support of the OPP, that having a licensed beer tent/entertainment venue, open in the evening would allow our guests to buy alcohol in the evening in a safe, legal and controlled environment,” he said.

A statement from Lions president Susie Wilson thanked the community partners who have donated their time over the years to help run the beer tent.

It said the change will impact the Lions’ ability to give back financially to local needs, but the club “will continue to look for new ways to continue to support our beloved community and count on your continued support with those initiatives.”

The Erin Fall Fair lost money last year, said Perry, although EAS showed a slight profit primarily due to a large donation by a community partner.

“The Board of Directors of the EAS realizes that the Erin Fair needs to be cash-positive to be sustainable,” he said. “Creating new and larger streams of revenue are essential for the long-term health and success of the Erin Fair and the EAS.”