State Fair gets back to basics for Labor Day weekend

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published August 24, 2016

 A clown speaks to a child during a previous fair.

A clown speaks to a child during a previous fair.

Photo provided by the Fifth-Third Bank Michigan State Fair


NOVI — Matt Scramlin doesn’t take vacations. 

The 39-year-old second-generation farmer — who raises sheep on his Holly farm — unwinds by putting his livestock in shows like the Fifth-Third Bank Michigan State Fair.  

There, Scramlin is in his element — reconnecting with family and longtime friends, showing fairgoers a peek into his life. That is what the State Fair means to him. 

“To me, as a family, I have two younger sisters. They’re both married. The fair, it’s our family vacation. We don’t go up north. We don’t go to Florida. Going to sheep shows is our time to be together, and having rides and food and all that other stuff is wonderful. It is our family reunion.”

Scramlin has participated in the State Fair since it moved to Novi in 2013. His father participated in shows at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit before that.

Scramlin is also president of the Highland Townshio-based Oakland County Farm Bureau — one of this year’s sponsors.

Carnival rides galore, circus shows, indoor exhibits, and sweet and savory fair foods are on the menu for attendees at the Fifth-Third Bank Michigan State Fair. The fair will run 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sept. 1, 2, 3 and 4, and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 5 at the roughly 320,000-square-foot Suburban Collection Showplace, 46100 Grand River Ave.

Getting back to its State Fair roots is a running theme that fair Executive Director Steve Masters said is something to recognize.

“We’re celebrating a traditional event, and we are working to reinvent this Michigan tradition in a way that makes sense for the 21st century,” Masters said.

The fair is honoring its past with features such as the Shrine Circus daily performances at noon, 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The final circus performance will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 5.

Livestock exhibits will take place 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sept. 1-2, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 3-4, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Michigan Made Pavilion. Other features include the agriculture and indoor vendor booths.

Other sights to see include an entertainment and beer tent 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sept. 1-4 and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 5.

Masters said that he hopes attendees will walk away with a reinforced sense of Michigan’s “incredibly wonderful” diversity, “with a strong agricultural tradition and strong agricultural business community.”

“Hopefully, people will go back and feel excellent about living in the state of Michigan,” he said.

Scramlin, a part of that agricultural community, said that the Oakland County Farm Bureau represents the farms in Oakland County.

He added that the State Fair wants to focus on agriculture.

“From their willingness to give scholarships to youth in agriculture to having a great facility for us to communicate agriculture’s message to the community and the state, this has been really exciting,” said Scramlin, who has over 100 sheep.

“We hope to bring that message (of) agriculture and what we do,” he said, adding that some people don’t typically speak to farmers in their day-to-day life.

Scramlin, whose sheep Novi won last year for supreme champion ram, said Novi’s offspring will compete this year. 

“A friend said we should call him Novi, and it stuck,” Scramlin said of his prizewinner.

Sheep are judged in different classes and categories.

Scramlin said his father started exhibiting animals in the 1960s, when Scramlin started going to the State Fair.

“We’ve been very involved with both State Fairs,” he said. 

From expanding the fairgrounds to having over 50 carnival rides, more is on the agenda for this year. 

Matthew Ball, also known as the Motor City Boogie Woogie Kid — a 45-year-old Clawson resident — will perform at the State Fair at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 1.

He said that he will be kicking off the main stage series with his family-friendly program of swing-era favorites that are fast-paced and upbeat.

“It is boogie woogie, blues and ballads — the three essential B’s,” he said, adding that when he first got into this genre of music, he discovered that it was accessible.

“One that captivates both the young and old ... unlike other forms of jazz that require pre-studies in order to appreciate them. This is a very joyful way of playing the instrument (piano),” he said.

Ball said that he plans to take the crowd back in time with popular songs, and original ones, that will complement the fair’s theme.

“Being a tribute to yesteryear favorites, I do blend a little original works within there in addition to that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to going there, too, going to bring the family to this one. Sounds like a fun time for everyone.”

For more information, go to

The original Michigan State Fair debuted in Detroit in 1849, according to 

It was one of the first statewide fair events to take place in the United States. It was moved to the Michigan State Fairgrounds on Woodward Avenue in 1905, and it stayed there until 2009, when it was shuttered due to budget issues.

General admission costs $8.

For more information on tickets and pricing, go to or call (248) 348-6942.