BERLIN - Excitement, relief and the smell of fried foods filled the air of the Berlin Fairgrounds Thursday night.
A demolition derby was held as a way to bring new entertainment to the 69th Annual Berlin Fair, hosted by the Berlin Lions Club, which previously ran from Friday to Sunday.
“I’d say it was a smashing success,” said Lenny Tubbs, president of the Lions Club.
The derby, held in the lower portion of the grounds next to the tractor barn, featured cars ramming into one another across multiple heats until a sole survivor remained. The event drew an estimated 1,400 spectators.
“This is the best thing that has ever happened to the fair,” said Geoff Chopo, of Berlin, who has been coming to the fair for years. In addition to providing an exciting type of entertainment most other major fairs in Connecticut offer, Chopo and his friend like the new dates of the fair, which has typically run the first weekend of October.
Organizers of the fair moved it three weeks earlier as way to avoid rain, which has plagued the fair in recent years, and draw new vendors and entertainment, like the demolition derby.
“I’m very excited,” said Meghen Maloney, of Berlin, alongside her husband, Brian, while waiting in line for some freedom fries from the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department.
The evening featured food concessions from some of the several local organizations that rely on the fair as a major source of funding for their programs. There also was music from Tim McDonald and access to the antique tractor barn.
“It brings back old memories,” said Ed Young, a farmer from Newington, while touring the tractor barn. A rusted out 1947 tractor that was still able to start, from the Dornfried family farm, joined several other Berlin native tractors in the 60- by 160-foot barn.
“You don’t see this a lot,” said Nathan Blankeman, 11, of Seymour, who was also touring the barn with his broth Travis.
The agricultural fair, with the regular staples of Dreamland Amusement rides, a rodeo by Painted Pony Rodeo of New York and arts and crafts, baking and livestock competitions, officially kicks off today at 11 a.m. and runs until 10 p.m.
Colors will be presented, the Berlin High School choir will sing the national anthem, local and state officials will make appearances, and Berlin kids will roam the grounds during their day off from school.
Saturday’s program, which runs from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., will feature entertainment from country singer-songwriter and guitarist Frankie Ballard. Jeff Pitchell and The Legends, which consists of family descendants of The Allman Brothers Band and Ray Charles, will headline Sunday, which runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Steven Corning of Maine, will also provide family entertainment.
Tickets at the door are $12 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and older) and children 11 and under are free. There’s free parking at the fairgrounds on a first-come, first served basis and shuttle service from Eversource and Assa Abloy will be available.
The National Weather Service is forecasting scattered showers and thunderstorms after 11 a.m. with a 40 percent chance of precipitation today, a chance of showers mainly after 5 p.m. with a 30 percent chance of precipitation Saturday and mostly sunny Sunday.
As of 8:15 p.m. Thursday, rain decided to make an appearance.
“We’re used to it,” said Ann Colaluca of Ann Marie Candies.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.