Michigan State Fair combines new and traditional

Steven Sonoras
Special to The Detroit News

If this year’s Michigan State Fair has an unofficial theme, it’s “More.” There are more exhibitors, more entertainers, more attractions and 40 more acres of space to accommodate it all.

This year the fair welcomes many updated and new outdoor attractions, including two new horse show arenas, an expanded midway and the first annual State Fair Parade on Labor Day. Fair staples like the Shrine Circus, the Michigan-Made Product Pavilion and, of course, C.F Burger Creamery’s Butter Cow and Guernsey’s Endless Cup of Chocolate Milk will all return.

In addition to celebrating Michigan’s agriculture and small businesses, the fair will place extra emphasis on the state’s rich musical lineage. Joining the returning Michigan State Fair Superstar Contest is the brand new Michigan Music Mega Jam, an all-star, multigenre revue featuring local legends such as Thornetta Davis, Jill Jack and Sean Blackman backed up by the roots and blues band Saint Cecilia.

“The story that this lineup tells is that the music scene here is constantly growing and evolving,” says Mega Jam host and producer, Nadir Omowale. “We have people from many different genres who are making a strong impact. We wanted to show the breadth and diversity of the Michigan music scene.”

The biggest change for the fair — which is now run as a private entity called Michigan State Fair LLC — is the venue itself. The organizers have expanded the Suburban Collection Showplace property by nearly 80 percent in the three years since it acquired the space, says Steve Master, executive director of the state fair.

“Based on the constant and steady increases in attendance, we are working hard to live up to the legacy of the original Detroit State Fair,” Masters says, adding that he expects more than 100,000 attendees this year. “To do that we needed more space for parking, rides, attractions and exhibitors.”

It will be easier than ever for visitors to navigate the expanded grounds, thanks to an exclusive new Carrot Pass mobile app developed by Royal Oak-based technology company Marvel Apps. The app will ping beacons placed throughout the fairground to alert fairgoers of educational information about exhibits and send alerts when performances and events are about to begin.

Masters says many of the upgrades simply wouldn’t have been possible for the original state fair, which was put out to pasture by the state government in 2009 in the wake of budget issues.

Craig Stigleman, business manager of the Shrine Circus, has been in involved with many of the event’s organizational meetings. The Shrine Circus was a founding member of Michigan State Fair LLC, and Stigleman says he is pleased with the business’ progress.

“I think we’ve done a good job of duplicating on the old fair, and improving upon it where necessary,” he says. “Every year we get closer and closer to what the old state fair was.”

Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Fifth Third Bank

Michigan State Fair


Suburban Collection Showplace

46100 Grand River, Novi

Tickets $6 in advance for adults, $8 onsite; children (2-11 years old) $4 in advance, $6 onsite; children 2 and under free

Carnival and circus tickets can be bundled with admission for $21-$30

(248) 348-6942