New event for Pelham

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2008

By AMY GORDON / Staff Writer

PELHAM – In September, Pelham will get a new attraction that’s trying to revive an old name.

Tennessee-based Universal Fairs will put on the Alabama State Fair at the Verizon Wireless Center in Pelham Sept. 19-28. The multi-day event will feature approximately 50 rides, motorcycle stunt shows and a petting zoo, along with other attractions, said Darrin Hillis, marketing director for Universal Fairs.

The event is expected to bring 100,000-150,000 attendees, Hillis said.

“We’re trying to bring something back to this area,” Hillis said. “I think everybody has wonderful memories of the Alabama State Fair. It’s a wonderful event that everybody seems to miss.”

John Jones, fair manager for the Shelby County Fair, said the Universal Fairs event wouldn’t be a true fair by Alabama standards because it’s not an agricultural fair.

The Shelby County Fair is a true fair, Jones said, and will keep money flowing within the county. Last year, 18,000 people attended the Shelby County Fair. This year, the Shelby County Fair will be held in Columbiana Sept. 15-20.

“All of their money goes out of the county, and all of ours stays in the county,” Jones said. “Which would you rather support?”

Hillis said the Universal Fairs-led Alabama State Fair would have a positive economic impact on the Pelham community.

“Most local businesses do about five times what they usually do when the fair comes,” Hillis said.

Also, the Alabama State Fair will allow people to have fun at a budget-friendly price, he said.

“During tough economic times, people are looking for an alternative to the regular vacation experience,” Hillis said. “Labor Day is our busiest day because people are not traveling, and they want to stay close to home.”

Jones said the Shelby County Fair is prepared to give the Alabama State Fair a run for its money.

“Oh, we can compete with them,” Jones said.

Jones also said Universal Fairs is misleading customers by calling the Pelham event the Alabama State Fair.

“They’re saying it’s a state fair to get people to come, and it’s not going to be a state fair,” Jones said. “You have to go through the state legislature to get the name for the state fair now.”

Hillis said Universal Fairs is accredited as a member of the International Association of Fairs and Expos and considers its events to be fairs.

“There’s no fair police,” Hillis said. “There are four or five state fairs in the state of Alabama. If there’s four or five state fairs in Alabama, who’s the real state fair?”

He said Universal Fairs is trying to acquire the rights to the “Alabama State Fair” name.

Despite the controversy, Hillis said he hopes people will support both events.

“It’s pretty common to have multiple fairs in different areas,” he said