Harvey Kenton has been involved with planning the fair for more than two decades, but he’s a born-and-raised Delaware boy and knows exactly how the fair has evolved over the years, and where it might be going in the future.


The Delaware State Fair is one of the state’s greatest cultural traditions, marrying the area’s agricultural roots with modern day fun and entertainment.

Naturally, a lot goes into planning the most prominent statewide event of the summer, and it’s not hard to think about how far the fair has come in its 91 years of history.

Harvey Kenton has been involved with planning the fair for more than two decades, but he’s a born-and-raised Delaware boy and knows exactly how the fair has evolved over the years, and where it might be going in the future.

Q What’s your favorite thing about the state fair?

A I would have to say everything. I don’t think there’s anything I can say is my favorite. I like easting at the Grange, it’s the best fried chicken in the world. And the Collins food booth is great for sandwiches during the day. Everything about the fair is my favorite. I don’t have anything that I dislike.

Q You’ve been coming to the fair ever since you were a boy; how do you think the fair has changed over the years?

A The night watchman used to turn his head an let us jump the fence because we didn’t have the money to get in. When I was little, it was pretty much agriculture and rides. Today, it’s gotten a lot more commercialized. But, we’re trying our best to keep the agricultural scene to it. I think it’s important; we don’t want to lose the agricultural feeling and sense to this fair. It’s the biggest industry in Delaware and we need to promote that here.

Q Delaware doesn’t have individual county fairs. What do you think the fact that we have one big fair says about the community in this state?

A I think Delaware is one big family. We’re that way in politics. The vice president, he’s Joe. If you see the governor, it’s “Hey Jack how are you?” It’s a family. I think Delaware is very fortunate to be that small. I think it’s a privilege.

Q What’s the most difficult part about organizing the fair every year?

A We’ve already started for next year. This isn’t something you wait until June to start. We have a very good administrative staff, we have an 80 member board that all have responsibilities, we have a 16-member executive board who takes care of things.

It is getting harder and harder to get entertainment to come. We have an older grandstand and it’s not air-conditioned. They can go to a Philadelphia arena and hold 20,000 people in air conditioning. If it rains, they don’t get wet. Down here we can seat about 7,000 people and if it rains we have to stop the show. Some of the acts will not come here because of that. And the Carrie Underwoods, some of the big ones, want to charge $100 a ticket.

Q How do you see the fair progressing in the future?

A I see continual growth here. The slot machines and casino revenues have allowed the fair to grow. We are the majority shareholders of the casino so it’s benefited the fair. It’s going to get bigger and better.

If we have one problem it’s land use; we need to expand. I can envision a hotel and a parking garage. If you don’t long-range plan you’re in trouble.

I would love during my lifetime to see a half a million people here. We’re averaging about [300,000 to 325,000] a year coming through. I’d love to have that problem.

About Kenton

Age: 68

Residence: Milford

Hometown: Milford, Laurel

Family: Wife Jean, son Chris, daughters Debbie and Dawn

Previous employment: Retired agribusiness salesman and real estate agent

Email Doug Denison at doug.denison@doverpost.com