CROWN POINT — The curtain opens today as the Lake County Fair officially opens to the public.
Fairgoers on Thursday night got a taste of what was to come at preview night with most food, rides and games opened to the crowd after 5 p.m., Lake County Fair secretary Arlene Marcinek said.
Marcinek said she's hoping and praying the weather will remain good during the duration of the fair.
"The weather will make or break the fair. I'm hoping the weather stays like it is for the next 10 days," Marcinek said.
The 167th annual Lake County Fair starts today with gates opening at 9 a.m. on Frugal Friday — food and beverage tastings are $2 — and runs through Aug. 11.
One of the highlights of preview night was the Martin Xtreme Racing Exhibition for Supercross and Quads.
Admission was free on preview night for the event held in the grandstand.
The event, held on a dirt track behind the grandstand, was open to all ages 4 years old and up, event spokesman Adam Martin said.
Brooks Boender, at age 5 one of the younger competitors, was resting and snacking on chips after taking a practice ride on the track with his dirt bike.
"Tonight is practice and tomorrow he'll compete in the 4-6-year-old class, said Brooks' dad, Tim Boender of Valparaiso.
Boender said his son has been riding since he turned 2 years old.
"He's wild. He definitely likes dirt bikes," Boender said.
Jackson Long, 12, of Crown Point and his brother, Andrew Long, 11, came to watch the exhibition along with their parents and another friend.
Both boys had competed two years ago on dirt bikes at the fair and both were hoping to compete again.
"I like the adrenaline rush," Jackson Long said of the competition.
Michael Funari of Crown Point brought his grandson, Michael Pedupido, 12.
"He just got a bike a couple of weeks ago and is just learning," Funari said.
Horses and fair food continue to draw fairgoers like Pam Witcher, her daughter, Tiffany Witcher, and granddaughter, Darla, 2.
The three generations from Hobart were watching a rider practice with her horse in the horse arena.
The two women snacked on gyros while Darla ate a hot dog.
"We used to come to the fair every day when I showed horses," Tiffany Witcher said.
Pam Witcher said she grew up in Chicago and didn't know county fairs like the one in Crown Point existed.
"I like the food, the animals and seeing lots of people I know," Pam Witcher said.
Tiffany Witcher added: "It's kind of like a reunion."
Fair rides and seeing his 4H legos on exhibit were "the" draw for Kai Brown, 9, of Crown Point, who came with grandparents, Joe and Raynette Hybiak of Munster.
"We come every year. We got him (Kai) a pass so he can ride all the rides," Raynette Hybiak said.
The three sat on a bench while munching on corn dogs and butterfly fries from nearby vendors.
Joe Raynette, 78, said he's been coming to the fair since he was 16 years old.
"I wasn't able to come last year after I got my new hip," Joe Raynette said
Some of the most-highly anticipated events planned for the fair include the return of the swine racers, Tuesday’s International Professional Rodeo Association sanctioned rodeo and a special visit by Jerry Ross, a retired United States Air Force officer and former NASA astronaut.
Ross, who has served in seven space shuttle missions, will be at the at the Purdue Federal Credit Union exhibit north of the 4-H Building Wednesday.
Another fair first officials are offering this year is the “Mooternity Ward” livestock nursery in the Dairy Barn. Previously, piglets and lambs had been featured, but this year’s nursery will also include new-born cattle and sheep.
Gates to the Lake County Fair open at 9 a.m. daily.
Exhibit buildings are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., except for the Industrial Building, which opens at noon on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and both Fridays. All buildings close at 8 p.m. Aug. 11, the last day of the fair.
The more than 30 carnival rides, games and attractions are open daily starting at noon.
Admission into the Lake County Fair is free before 3 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. Regular gate admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children 9 and up and free for children 8 and under.
Parking on the fairgrounds is $5. Free parking and shuttle buses are provided to and from the Crown Point High School every day starting at noon.
Full-day wristbands are available for purchase in advance online through opening day. Wristbands range from $15-$25.