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Hoping For Fair Weather

A little rain never hurt anybody. And it probably won’t hurt the58th annual Brookhaven Exchange Club Fair.

The Weather Channel’s 10-day forecast for Brookhaven shows along, hot, wet week ahead for the nine-day fair, which should beginrelatively safe and dry but see scattered thunderstorms and 60percent rain chances by the end of its run. Club members are set upand ready to get down to business, unworried about the possibilityof wet weather.

They don’t want anyone else worried about it, either.

“We usually get one rain night. Not that we’re hoping for that,but that’s par for the course,” said fair chairman Stan Foster.”We’ll make an announcement if we have to shut down, but usuallyit’s just a short delay for a passing thunderstorm. We only shutdown the fair if the weather turns dangerous.”

Of course, if it does rain on the fair, attendance will suffer -not good for a club that uses the six-decade-old event as its mainfundraiser for a myriad of charitable activities. The club dependson the fair and the fair alone to fund an estimated $50,000 inannual contributions to good causes, including child abusepreventions, college scholarships and donations to othercharities.

With temperatures reaching into the low to mid-90s daily duringthe moist month of July, rain can be expected.

But anyone in Brookhaven who has looked outside the past twoweeks knows that rain usually comes down in a 20-minute tirade inthe late afternoon. With the fair starting at 6:30 every night,most of the rain should be long gone, Foster said.

“People want to be at the fair, so if it does rain, they justcome back and double up the next night,” he said.

According to the weather predictions, it should be a sweaty 91degrees when the fair kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Friday, with thetemperature dropping to the low 80s with nightfall. The day andnight are expected to be partly cloudy with only a 20 percentchance of rain.

The weather will turn a little more fickle Saturday, withscattered thunderstorms and a 40 percent chance of rain – hopefullybefore the fair starts – expected.

The fair doesn’t run on Sunday, but Saturday’s forecast extendsall the way through Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to easeoff a little, though, with the high for Monday predicted at 86degrees.

There’s a 60 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms for thefair’s final three days.

All that heat may zap fairgoers’ energy, but there’s no betterplace to be to recharge.

“The fair has everything,” Foster said. “Funnel cakes, candyapples, cotton candy, burgers, sausage dogs … a veritablesmorgasbord.”

Those goodies are distributed among three separate food areas atExchange Club Park, and of course all will be complemented withcold drinks and other fun snacks. Eleven rides of varying intensitywill help children digest their sugary intake. Tickets are soldonsite for $1 each, with different rides requiring differentamounts of tickets.

Club members have spent the preceding weeks tidying up the park,washing down all the booths, tightening up and safety-checking allthe rides and installing new lighting and speakers. Security willbe on hand throughout the fair.

Brookhavenites know the rest of the story. It’s the same oldcomfortable, conservative fair they grew up attending. The onlychanges planned this year are small, subtle and irreversible.

The friendly old face of Carl Dyess, who passed away inFebruary, will no longer be running the ticket booth, a job he’dcarried on for many years. Of course Charles “Ploochie” Ratliff,the club’s last charter member, died at the end of June, and nowthe club has a new man to run its successful bingo game for thefirst time in 40 years.

Steve Melancon fired up the bingo machine Wednesday night andran “pre-flight check.” He’s ready to take over.

“Piece of cake,” he said.

As usual, the bingo games will give away quality prizes, donatedby businesses around the community.

“I find it unbelievable how much people help out,” said JimSimpson, who imparted his bingo wisdom onto Melancon afterassisting Ratliff for many years. “They’d say, ‘Come on back. We’llround something up.'”

Prizes for bingo this year include jewelry, appliances,decorations and even gasoline. On the last night, Saturday, July31, the main prizes will be $200 savings bonds, awarded in memoryof Ratliff.