‘We’re excited’: Ionia Free Fair to return in July

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IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ionia Free Fair will be back this summer, with organizers promising concerts, shows and carnival rides as usual.

The announcement from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that all capacity limits would be lifted by July 1 sealed the deal, fair board President Lisa Sanford said.

“I feel that vibration in the community… that pent up energy and desire for people to have fun and we’re going to make sure they can do that in a safe and healthy environment,” Sanford said told News 8 Wednesday.

Saving Abel will headline the concert lineup, with additional shows by Tom Petty tribute band The Insiders, Center Stage, and Motley Crue tribute band The Wrecking Crue and 80s cover band Mega 80s.

There will also be a Monster Truck show, a Supercross show, a rodeo, two demolition derbies and tractor pulls. The parade and queen’s contest will be held as usual. Youth fair events will still be held, but not under 4H because of the pandemic.

The popular event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic — the first time it was completely called off since World War II — though there were opportunities to get fair food at the fairgrounds. COVID-19 protocols will be in effect this summer.

The 105th fair is scheduled for July 16 to July 24.

“We’re back and we’re excited,” Sanford said in a statement.

Beyond the fairgrounds, the downtown business community is also buzzing about the fair’s comeback. Director of Ionia Downtown Development Authority Linda Curtis said every year, the fair provides a big boost to the local economy. 

“All the campgrounds are filled, our hotels are filled to the brim, our downtown shops … and restaurants, all of those see an increase in foot traffic and retail sales during this time,” Curtis said. 

She said the economic impact has even been known to impact the local auto and real estate industry.

“There’s auto sales that come along and sometimes there are even home purchases from people that have visited the fair,” Curtis said. 

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