Sterling Fair hopes for record; 40,000 mark could be reached.

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Byline: Sandy Meindersma

STERLING - Even with this weekend's unpredictable weather, the 2008 Sterling Fair still has a chance to break the attendance record set in 2005.

The rain yesterday morning kept afternoon crowds light, a sharp contrast to Friday night, when Fair Committee Chairman Terry Heinold ordered that the roads to the fairgrounds be shut down because of the crowds.

"It was getting close to a dangerous level," Mr. Heinold said. "But we took action before there were any problems - we act, not react."

Mr. Heinold was hopeful that clear weather today would bring the crowds back and put the fair over its high mark of 40,000.

"We're one of the last free fairs in the state," he said, admitting that he knew of no other fairs where both parking and admission are free.

While there were only half the usual number of people at the fair yesterday, the animal tents were full. Five tents covering a total of nearly half an acre, were loaded with horses, sheep, oxen, donkeys and a mule.

"It's all about the local farms," said Keith Matthews, a fair volunteer who helps oversee the livestock. "You can thank 4-H for that. They are buying into it big-time."

Much of the fair is focused on children, with pony rides, puppets and magician Steve Charette.

"And we have the Lego booth back this year," Mr. Heinold said. "We didn't have the volunteers last year."

And of course, the...

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