IONIA, Mich. — After being canceled last year due to COVID-19, the Ionia Free Fair returns Friday at 1pm. While the excitement is in the air, so are some concerns over ride safety after a ride malfunctioned at the Cherry Festival in Traverse City.
“It’s starting to look like something is going to happen," Ionia Free Fair President of the Board of Directors Lisa Sanford said as she walked around the fairgrounds earlier in the week looking at final touches. “I get goosebumps looking at it all.”
Sanford is excited to be able to bring people back to the fairgrounds after some uncertainty if the fair would go on this year after COVID-19.
“The Ionia Free Fair has been around for 106 years and it's only closed twice - once for World War I and once for COVID," Sanford said.
The decision to continue with the fair was only finalized late May, leaving about 60 days of prep time.
“Usually, we start planning the Ionia Free Fair the beginning of August after the fair ends. So we usually have 11 months to plan," Sanford said.
Not COVID, nor some minor flooding that the fairgrounds commonly experience would stop the fair this year. But now ride malfunctions are the new concern after an incident at the Cherry Festival in Traverse City. Sanford says there is nothing to worry about at the Ionia Free Fair, even though the fair uses the same company for their rides as the Cherry Festival - Arnold Amusements, based out of Ohio.
“We have worked with Arnold's for 10 years and their commitment to safety is top notch, we know firsthand. We have full confidence that the rides they're bringing to the Ionia Free Fair are safe. The ride from the Cherry Festival was dismantled, sent back to the manufacturer for investigation and it is not coming to the Ionia Free Fair," Sanford said.
Sanford and the rest of the organizers are expecting a record turnout this year, after COVID-19 took away over a year of fun, public events. Just in time for everyone to enjoy rides, horse soccer and live shows at the fair.
The fair begins Friday, July 16 and will go on until Sunday, July 24. The fair will be open everyday from 1pm until 11pm, and 1pm until 10pm July 24. Tickets will be available on-site everyday and online for a few days.