Heat delay: Ionia Free Fair gets late start Friday

Ionia County

IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ionia Free Fair got off to a late start Friday afternoon after organizers decided to keep the rides and most of the food trucks closed until the late afternoon.

Free Fair leaders announced the decision late Thursday night to start the fair at 4 p.m. as forecast heat index temperatures were around 100 degrees.

Amie Stout, president of the Ionia Free Fair Board of Directors, said the decision was about safety.

“To be able to give folks time to cool off elsewhere and then come on down, and our carnival workers because they’re standing out in the oppressive heat the whole time,” Stout told 24 Hour News 8 while explaining the decision Friday afternoon. “We don’t want to lose any time. We want folks to come down and enjoy everything we have to offer.”

Some fairgoers didn’t get word of the delay and showed up only to be disappointed.

“We’re bummed,” said Sellena Weaver of St. Johns who brought her children to enjoy the fair. “It would’ve been bearable for us.”

The Johnston family drove in from Virginia to be in town for the fair.

Kieran Johnston, 9, said the weather is no bother when compared to what he’s experienced at home.

“It’s nicer,” Kieran’s sister exclaimed.

“More cool and lighter breeze,” Kieran added.

Stout said she doesn’t know of another heat-prompted delay in the fair’s history, which goes back more than 100 years.

Rides started to light up and move again around 4 p.m. Soon after, there were hundreds of patrons showing up to participate.

It remained hot, but organizers said they hoped the shortened exposure would make things safer.

A fireworks show is planned for Friday night. Free Fair festivities are scheduled to continue through Saturday.

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