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Fair bids farewell until next year

As the sun set on the final night of the 57th annual BrookhavenExchange Club Fair Saturday, Lake Lincoln area resident Kurk Whitequietly pushed around a two-seat stroller while his sons ran frombooth to booth, soaking up the mild fair with the same passion hedid during his youth and every year since.

“I’m 40 years old, and I’ve been to 40 fairs,” he said. “It’s agood fair – not so big you have to worry about the kids’ safety andnot so small there’s nothing to do. And it’s for a good cause.”

While the fair was traditional and comfortable for White, it wasnew and exciting for Ella Griffith, who was in town from Chicagolast week to celebrate her first birthday and her first fair.

“It’s just a family tradition,” said Brookhaven native ErinGriffith, 26, who has attended every fair since she was born exceptlast year’s, when she was pregnant with Ella. “We loved it growingup, and I wanted her to take part in it, too.”

Exchange Club members estimated that anywhere from 5,000 to7,000 people per night took part in the weeklong fair thatculminated Saturday. They added that 2009 was – despite the economy- on par with last year’s event, which was one of the club’s mostsuccessful.

The proof is in the numbers, which fair chairman Ted Ratclifflogged nightly and compiled after the fair’s conclusion.

“There were 30,000 riders that got spun, twirled, bounced -whatever different word you want to come up with – around thepark,” he said.

Reviewing the fair’s activities closer, Ratcliff said there were39,000 pingpong balls pitched at the goldfish booth; 8,000softballs thrown at both the milk bottle booth and dunk tank; 7,000corks fired from the pop gun; 4,000 basketballs tossed; and 1,500baseballs pitched.

Successful numbers at the fair’s rides and games translate intosuccessful numbers for the club. Ratcliff did not disclose theamount raised by the club throughout the week, but said it waswithin one percentage point of last year’s total.

“We were dead on with the previous year, and that’s prettyphenomenal considering the economy,” he said. “We’ve got thefinances to fund the projects that are important to the community,and we’ll continue to do those good things we’ve always done andprobably find some additional things to do.”

Club president Greg Hoff said the fair is basically the club’sonly fundraiser, and it has a long list of charitable organizationsthat it supports, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, theAmerican Cancer Society and local causes like McComb’s Children’sAdvocacy Center.

Now that the fair is over until late summer 2010, he said theclub would devote its attention to those causes.

“We’re going to just get into our regular year,” Hoff said.”We’ll start doing a lot of community service work and get back togiving back to the community – everything we took in. It takes awhole year to give it all back.”

Hoff pointed out that weather did not have a great impact on thefair this year, contributing to the good turnout and financialsuccess of the event. The fair was delayed for two hours on itsopening night, he said, but the crowds waited out the storm and therain never returned.

The only real hindrance to the fair was Friday night’s scuffle,a quick fist fight that resulted in the detainment of a pair ofjuveniles and the early closure of the fair.

But the fight was very minor and the fair was ready to closeanyway, Hoff said. And the biggest commotion was caused not by thecombatants, but by the crowd that rushed to witness the scene.

“It really wasn’t even a fight, just two kids being kids,” hesaid. “It drew the interest of a lot of folks, but it was nothing.You get that many people together and it’s a shame, but it doesn’thurt anything. You’re going to have little things like that happeneverywhere.”

All in all, Hoff called the 2009 fair a success.

“We had a wonderful fair, as good a week as we’ve ever had,” hesaid. “I wish we could do it again this week.”