Many have noticed the resurgence of the Kosciusko County Community Fair over the last several years. Themes and more musical and other acts have increased attendance at the already popular event held each July at the scenic fairgrounds beside Winona Lake, 1400 E. Smith St. Warsaw.
Current president of the fair board Mike Loher has been involved with the fair for the past 18 years and is pleased with the way things have come together, while always anticipating and looking for ways to make the fair experience even better.
He is especially proud of this year’s 2013 theme “Salute To Heroes.” The opening ceremony of the 97th annual fair will have what Loher deems “a fantastic program” honoring Kosciusko’s heroes including, but not limited to, police, fire and emergency workers, medical field workers and others nominated by the community.
“The community has been invited to send a picture of their hero to the fair office. These have been included in a heroes slide show that will be shown during the opening ceremonies. There will be special music, speakers and a tribute to John Anglin. This will be a tremendous show,” Loher explained.
Also during the opening ceremony, Loher said the winner of a talent contest hosted by StaceyPageOnline.com will be announced. “We’re excited to welcome that announcement to our stage,” he noted, “we are all about community and we know StaceyPageOnline is too.”
The opening ceremony program will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 8, and will be followed by a concert by Susie McEntire, who will perform at the grandstand at 8 p.m. “We are excited to have her,” noted Loher.
Seating in the grandstand for the opening ceremony and McEntire’s concert is free, but donations will be accepted. Track seating is available for a fee.
Loher is one of the movers and shakers behind bringing quality talent to perform at the fair over the last few years. In fact, an appearance at the Kosciusko County Community Fair can be something of the predictor of success for country artists as the careers of Luke Bryan and Jake Owen can attest. Said Loher, “I have enjoyed getting to know the talent and made friends with some of them such as Jason Michael Carroll and Phil Vassar. With the help of many others, the fair has gotten a reputation as a good place to perform. The musicians remember the grandstand on the lake and we try to take them out for some fishing or a boat ride while they are here.”
Loher was the youngest person to ever serve on the fair board when he was chosen for his first term and the energy and enthusiasm he brings to all things fair is evident when talking with him. The Warsaw native is quick to point out all the support he has received over the years from staff, other fair board members, friends and the community as a whole. “It’s a team effort,” he noted. His employer G & G Hauling and Excavating has been very helpful too.
Loher’s own interest in antique tractor collecting is what led him into the world of county fairs. “In the late 1990s I started bringing them to the fair. I was asked to help with the truck pulls for a couple of years and then was elected to the board. And here I am,” he said with a smile.
He started asking why the fair didn’t have concerts and was told to go find sponsorships for them. He did, and the rest is history.
Another goal Loher has is to bring more activity to the fairgrounds when the fair is not going on and he’s happy to report that use has increased.
He pointed out that there is much cooperation between the fairs in the area and they help each other out. One of the innovations that Kosciusko is known for is that it was one of the first fairs to sell tickets to its events online. Advice has been given to other fairs, including Elkhart County, on how to do it.
“It’s my goal not to hear, ‘Wow! That was a great fair,’ but to hear people say, ‘I can’t wait to see what they are going to do next year’,” said Loher. “But people also have to remember that we can only be as good as the community will allow us to be.”