KERSEY – As patrons stroll the Elk County Fairgrounds this week, they might be interested to know that several organizers have been around since the event's inception in the early 1970s.
Ernest Mattiuz, vice president of the Elk County Farm Bureau, has been around since the third county fair and fondly remembers the constant evolution with ease.
Unofficially, the fair started out in 1974 as a weekend event held at the Kersey Community Center. The following year, the event was held behind the building and it was turned into a weeklong event in 1976.
Since then, the Elk County Fairgrounds property was purchased in 1980 and Exhibit Hall No. 1 was put up.
"I came on as general manager in 1977 and did that until 1997 when I was off the board," Mattiuz said. "The stage and track area were built in 1985 and the second exhibit hall was built in I believe 2000.
"We were saving up money to buy land and we really looked all over the county for land to develop."
According to Mattiuz, the fair outgrew the land behind the local community building rather quickly.
"We kept looking and the gentleman who owned this land at that time, members of the committee approached him for it, and it was sold for a very reasonable price," Mattiuz said, "and he financed the sale and really only wanted so much money every year-- in the end it only took us 12 years to pay it off and there weren't any loans or anything that had to be taken out for the purchase."
Looking back, Mattiuz said event organizers have been lucky over the years to bring in steady attractions.
"We've been fortunate to have pretty good carnivals over the years," Mattiuz said. "There was one year that we got stuck where the carnival didn't show up, but it actually didn't really hurt us that bad.
"After that, we got the carnivals in and we were pretty fortunate because our carnival committee would get somebody in for five or six years, then we'd get another one because then the rides change every so often so the kids don't have the same thing every year."
Entertainment also has been a factor in attracting crowds to the fairgrounds year after year.
"When I was on the board, we did try going with some bigger-name entertainment, but there really are too many other fairs in the area," Mattiuz said. "We're late enough in the year that we really couldn't compete with that.
"The decision was eventually made, probably in the late 1990s, to just go with local and regional acts and talent, and that seems to be working out well."