ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. – The 84th annual Champlain Valley Fair lived up to its theme of ‘Awesome’ with 290,128 people — down from 2004 — coming through the gates from Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. The slight dip in attendance from last years 299,168, may be due to the dramatic effects of Hurricane Katrina and resulting increase in gas prices, fair officials said this week.Still, visitors from 45 states and as far away as New Zealand, California and Hawaii attended the 10-day fair, concert series and agricultural competitions.There were plenty of smiles to go around, especially for fair food venders who saw their sales rise by about 3 percent, making it the best year ever at the Fair for purveyors of fried dough, corn on the cob and cotton candy. This was an awesome fair overall, said David F. Grimm, general manager of the Exposition. We had excellent weather almost every day; one of the strongest fair concert line-ups anywhere in the Northeast; an array of fresh attractions and great new modern facilities that were enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people over the course of the Fair.Some of the nicest comments were heard over and over from our visitors was about how clean and family-friendly the Fair was again this year. And thats all because of a great staff, dedicated department superintendents, their hard-working crews and the volunteers who come to help because they love the Fair. Everyone gives 100 percent and more for 10 days so that our fairgoers have the best experience possible, he added. While there was only one rainy day in the middle of the Fair as the remnants of Hurricane Katrina passed through New England, its effects were felt through the busy Labor Day weekend by fairgoers traveling longer distances to attend the event, Grimm noted. That may be why our overall attendance numbers are down a bit, he said.To aid in the disaster relief effort, fair officials invited the local American Red Cross to bring its bloodmobile to the fair and collect donations for hurricane victims at its gates and before and after the sold-out Tim McGraw concert Sunday. More than $20,000 was collected from fairgoers, according to the Red Cross. Radio station WOKO 98.9 helped get the word out and several performers and fair vendors contributed a portion of their proceeds to the relief effort.Sparking many of the changes this year was a new partnership with Progressive Insurance as the Fairs presenting sponsor. With Progressives support there were daily prize giveaways and a grand prize of $1,500 in home improvement prizes; additional picnic tables, plastic shopping bags, an art show and new signage at the Fair this year. Our relationship with Progressive as a presenting sponsor is unique in the fair industry and we are looking forward to having them back again next year for our 85th anniversary celebration, Grimm noted. The Fairs Grandstand series of concerts – topped by country headliner Tim McGraw – received rave reviews for their showmanship and entertainment value. Shows by country star Alan Jackson and comedian Larry the Cable Guy were nearly sold out. Other Budweiser True Music concerts included The Allman Brothers Band with .38 Special (featuring a surprise guest, Trey Anastasio of Phish); American Idols star Clay Aiken; and disco-era favorites K.C. and the Sunshine Band and Village People. Motor sports fans enjoyed Land Airs Extreme Freestyle Motorcycle Show; JM Productions Figure 8 racing and the Windshield Doctors Demolition Derby; and Add-ons NTPA Grand National Tractor and Truck Pull on Labor Day.The Reithoffer Show midway and carnival featured 40 rides and attractions and the one-of-a-kind Speed – a 135-foot-tall ride that spins and twirls riders at 60 mph. It is the only ride of its kind currently operating in the United States, according to Pat Reithoffer. Overall numbers were down by 3.5% on the midway, Grimm said, again reflecting the lower attendance numbers.Free daily entertainment at the Fair drew daily crowds for a high dive show, daily appearances by Spider-Man, a science show, free video game arcade, a juggler, mime, hypnotist, caricature artist, racing pigs, petting zoo, Elvis impersonator, musicians and an authentic cowboy chuck wagon. Many entertainers and animals were featured in the daily parade through the grounds. New this year was the Burlington Free Press Awesome Zone in the State Building which along with daily shows for children and a YMCA Fitness Challenge, featured the Big Heavy World Concert Series – a nightly showcase for local high school and college bands. Approximately $75,000 in competition premiums and prize money was awarded during the fair. Significant increases in entries to the art and photography department were seen this year; including a special art show presented by Progressive Insurance from its corporate art collection in Cincinnati, Ohio. Home crafts reported a record-number of quilts and other crafts sold during the fair.This years heavyweight pumpkin, grown by Kevin Companion of Huntington, weighed in at 960.5 pounds and was displayed in the new Expo North Greenhouse, along with fruits, vegetables, flowers, bonsai and Christmas trees. Expo North also featured the 53-ton giant sand sculpture featuring Harry Potter characters, displayed indoors for the first time at the fair. More than 100 people, including Vt. Gov. James Douglas, were on hand to honor the 2005 inductees into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame at the Champlain Valley Exposition in a ceremony held during the Fair. This years inductees were: U.S. Sen. James M. Jeffords; dairy farmer Harold J. Howrigan, Sr. of Fairfield; Morgan Horse steward Dr. Donald Balch; and a posthumous award to former Vt. State Rep.Stephanie Bourdeau. Vermont Dairy of Distinction awards were presented midweek to numerous Vermont farms and a reception was held for Vermont Legislators and past directors of the Exposition. More than 1,300 animals were on display or competing for top honors in their class at the Fair. Contests ranged from horse and oxen pulling competitions, the Gymkhana invitational horse show with a top prize of $1,000, 4-H horse and cattle shows, and the sheep to shawl competition in the Sheep tent. The Read and Win summer reading program, sponsored by the International Association of Fairs and Expositions and Champlain Valley Exposition, saw approximately 1,000 children complete the assignment of reading at least three books over the summer to earn free admission to the Fair. Several hundred students in grades K-5 and their families from five northern Vermont counties attended a special reception on Aug. 29 and received free books and ride tickets. Later in the week, more than 600 students, teachers and parents from Vermont schools visited the Fair as part of the annual educational field trip day to visit the agricultural and animal exhibits. Students from the University of Vermonts Agriculture and Animal Science programs also toured the fair as part of their studies.Significant improvements to the fairgrounds and facilities over the summer included the addition of Expo North to the Robert E. Miller Expo Centre; relocation of the cashiers office building, repaving of several roads, improved lighting in the agriculture area, and updates and renovation of numerous food vendor buildings. We are a not-for-profit organization. It would be impossible to make these kinds of improvements and put on a quality fair of this size without the strong backing from local and national businesses. We had more than 50 fair sponsors, in addition to Progressive, this year and we cant thank them enough for their continued support, Grimm said.Plans are already underway for the 2006 Champlain Valley Fair, Aug. 26- Sept. 4, that will mark the events 85th anniversary. Photos from this years fair, results from many of the blue-ribbon competitions and more information about other upcoming events this fall at the Champlain Valley Exposition at www.cvfair.com(link is external). For additional information, call (802) 878-5545.
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USG kicked off USC’s fourth annual EdMonth on Monday night with “SparkED,” a panel featuring activists who spoke about their work promoting educational justice for traditionally marginalized students.The panel addressed grassroots initiatives and obstacles to education reforms, particularly within Los Angeles and Chicago. It was moderated by Assistant Director Nnenna Ezeh, a senior majoring in health and humanity.Malcolm London, a freshman at University of Illinois and a poet-activist known for his spoken word piece “High School Training Ground” performed at TED Talks Education, explained the resource disparities within Chicago’s public education system.London explained that the problem is not that schools in poorer areas are not producing results — the problem is that those schools do not receive proper attention and funding.“When on the opposite side of the city [from where the mayor’s children attend school] you have one teacher for every 40 kids, you replace counselors with policemen, and then you underfund these schools and say, well they aren’t being used correctly,’ well whose fault is that?” London said.London helped organize protests when Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel closed 50 schools, many of which contained a high proportion of minority students, because those schools were labeled as “underutilized.” The protests included up to 15,000 people demonstrating in the streets weekly.Emily Almendarez, a high school activist involved in the Coalition for Educational Justice and Schools that LA Students Deserve, expanded upon the discussion of inadequate resources.Almendarez noted the differences between the predominantly Caucasian middle school she attended in the valley and the high school she attended in Koreatown.Almendarez’s high school had five campuses that shared one nurse, one college counselor and one library.“There are no resources that indicate that you’re worth going to college,” Almendarez said.Jose Lara is the vice president at El Rancho Unified School District and a founder of Ethnic Studies Now Coalition, a grassroots group that is working on asking unified school districts in California to require a Ethnic Studies class to be a high school graduation requirement.Increased efforts to include Ethnic Studies in high school curricula has lead to the implementation of the course in four school districts in California.Lara discussed that minority students are not exposed to education on the histories, cultures and languages that affect their every day lives and communities because curricula are western-centered.Director of EdMonth Hannah Nguyen also explained that this year’s panel speaks to the theme “Spark a Movement” because it highlights the power of the student voice so that education reform is approached from a different angle.