Over 250,000 expected to attend 31st Annual Salem Fair

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Photo by Shawn Nowlin
It’s that time of the year, where even adults can become kids again.
Photo by Shawn Nowlin   Fair organizers expect a significant amount of ice cream to be sold this year.

The Salem Fair, which began on Tuesday, runs for 13 days this year, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Located at 1001 Roanoke Boulevard, the largest free gate fair in Virginia is once again expected to attract over 250,000 patrons.

Attendees will have over 40 rides and 30 food vendors to choose from this year. Baked pretzels, funnel cakes and fried Oreos among other fair favorites will be available for purchase every day while “The Giant Wheel,” “The Haunted Mansion,” and “The Tilt-A-Whirl” are sure to generate much excitement, in addition to the new rides.

“We want to exceed people’s expectations when they come to the Salem Fair. You are not going to please everybody obviously, but we do our best to satisfy as many people as possible,” said Jim Ingram, an employee with Deggeller Attractions. “We have been here since the beginning. What started off as a little carnival has grown into one of the largest events in Virginia.”

According to Jasmine Banks, the rides are the best part about the Salem Fair. Despite having to make the six-hour drive from Maryland each summer, Banks says it’s worth it because “I get to make timeless memories while catching up with family and friends.”

Unlike Banks, this year will be Sam Thompson’s first time attending the Salem Fair. “When I moved to Roanoke three years ago, everybody was telling me I should go to the fair when it’s in town. I’m finally going to take them up on their offer,” he said.

Roughly 200 employees were hired to set up the fair this year.

“Everybody showed up ready to work,” Dale Negus, Vice President of Fair Play Games, said. “A lot of work goes into making the fair a success, but it’s always a welcomed challenge.”

Roanoke County native Chris Jackson vividly remembers the first time he went to the Salem Fair. It was 1999, and at the time he was dating his high school sweetheart who he eventually married.

“When people ask us what our first date was, I always tell them the Salem Fair. I tried to win Jaime a teddy bear but wasn’t athletic enough to do so,” Jackson said with a smile. “She gave me a kiss on the cheek for trying but still gets on me about my lack of athleticism to this day.”

John Saunders and Carey Harveycutter started the Salem Fair in 1987. At the time, they didn’t have much entertainment to work with. Today, there are at least five different areas of free entertainment for attendees at all times.

“The money that we receive from the sponsorships and rides allows us to raise about $300,000 for the City of Salem,” Harveycutter, Salem’s Director of Tourism, said. “The taxes go back to the general fund for the city while the proceeds go back to the operation of the Salem Civic Center.”

For more information on the Salem Fair, visit www.salemfair.com.