The Columbus Fairgrounds will host the Lowndes County Summerfest Ultimate Fair May 31-June 4, featuring carnival rides, a midway circus, exotic animals, sideshows, and more.
Gates to the Summerfest open each night at 5 p.m., and admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 4 to 10 years of age, and free for children 3 and under.
On May 31, one child 10 years old or younger gets in free with one adult. The midway circus and and exotic animal show are free with admission, while tickets or an all-day arm band pass are required for the rides.
The Summerfest is presented by American Daredevil Entertainment with midway rides provided by Dixieland Carnival. Rides include “Expo Wheel,” “Himalaya,” “Zipper,” “Orbiter,” “Screamer,” “Ring of Fire,” “Zero Gravity" and more.
Tommy Pearson is the titular "American Daredevil" at his company, a vehicular stuntman who staged last year's Summerfest in Columbus with daring leaps and walls of fire. While turnout was good last year, Pearson said, this year, he's leaving the stunts on the shelf.
"With the turnout, we want to come back," Pearson said. "People were nice and respectful down there, and we had a great time. We performed a little last year, and we wanted to do something different this year, so we brought in the circus and the exotic animals."
Pearson said the circus would be open-air, not only because it's free with admission but also because summer heat makes a big top impractical. He said the circus includes animal stunts, juggling, hula acts, clowns, and a guest appearance by Nickelodeon's Spongebob Squarepants.
"These performers have toured many years with Shrine Circus, and they still do," Pearson said. "Right next to it, we're having the exotic animal show. That's also free with gate admission."
The exotic animal show features about 25 animals, Pearson said, including a five- to six- foot alligator, a 26-foot python, and a quarter-sized frog with enough venom to kill 25 grown men.
"It's not like a petting zoo," Pearson said. "It's not something you see every day."
Summerfest will also feature side shows, including fire eaters, glass walkers and sword swallowers, Pearson said.
"Last year, we had a side show where you go and staple a dollar bill in a girl's arm or back or anywhere you want to staple it," Pearson said. "It's your classic midway sideshow. You name it, they basically have it in there."
Pearson said another change from last year was that the Summerfest tour has expanded from three locations to five. He said the reason this stop was scheduled immediately after Memorial Day instead of Memorial Day weekend was to avoid conflicting with other plans people might have already made for that weekend.
"We figured most families would go to the beach or the river," Pearson said. "The way the economy is, we want everyone to come out and enjoy it. That's why we keep our gate prices down and our tickets down. (On May 31,) a family of four can come out and get in the gate for $10."
Pearson said Dixieland Carnival had been in business for generations, and he has enjoyed worked with them for a number of years. He said one of the things he likes most about Dixieland is that all their rides, games, and concession stands are clean and high-quality.
"You'll hardly even find a light bulb out," Pearson said. "We like the expression on people's faces. We like the enjoyment of people walking away, having a great time that didn't cost a fortune. What I've done, or tried to do, is bring back the old state fairs where you've got a little bit for everybody whether you're seven years old or 70 years old."