IONIA — Sporting a red mohawk and proudly wearing his Belding football T-shirt, Hunter O’Connor, 9, confidently gripped a red and yellow rubber sledgehammer as he approached the High Striker carnival game at the Ionia Free Fair.
With one quick strike onto the game’s metal pad, he successfully rang the bell at the top of the carnival game Friday evening, as did his two cousins, who all quickly began sword fighting with the inflatable swords they had just won.
“We’re here every year,” Hunter’s mother Wendy O’Connor said as her son and two nephews continued to play. “They have so much fun here, there’s games, rides, food — I think it’s hard for them to pick a favorite when they come.”
For Hunter and his cousins, Reed Willmore, 9, and Drew Willmore, 7, both of Belding, it was riding the exciting Scrambler and Cliffhanger amusement park-style rides that they claimed to be their favorite moment of the day.
But that would likely change as the three young boys, all with matching mohawk haircuts, were anxiously awaiting the monster truck show grandstand event scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
“The kids are very excited about that,” Wendy O’Connor said. “This is quite a weekend for them, as they’ll be traveling to the Upper Peninsula to go fishing with their grandpa tomorrow.”
The Ionia Free Fair, which is located in downtown Ionia off South Dexter Street along the Grand River, began on Thursday and lasts until next Saturday, July 28. It will feature the midway carnival rides, games and several grandstand events throughout the remainder of the fair.
The midway is open from 1 to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight today and next Saturday and noon to midnight Friday.
Grandstand events take place nearly every night of the week, with the exception of Monday, including the Off Road Demo Derby (Sunday), Cage Combat (Wednesday) and the Christian Concert Series (Thursday), which will feature several Christian bands to help support local food banks.
The fair also features daily circus performances, which is something brother and sister Eric Ibarra, 13, and Gabby Ibarra, 11, of Greenville, had been waiting patiently for Friday evening.
“I’m really looking forward to the Lions,” Eric said. “I’ve seen some camels and elephants walking around and I’m really excited to see what they’re going to do.”
To Eric’s delight, the opening act consisted of several lions and tigers, which performed various tricks while impressing the crowd with their massive size.
“This day has been a lot of fun,” Eric continued. “Riding all the rides, like the Zipper, it’s all been very good.”
Gabby said she and her brother have been coming to the fair “for as long as we can remember” and also had a wonderful time throughout the afternoon.
“It’s been awesome, we’ve had a lot of fun,” she said. “Spinning around in circles and going on so many exciting rides, it has all been a lot of fun.”
For more information about the Ionia Free Fair, including parking prices and ticket prices for certain events, visit www.ioniafreefair.com.