Before the 2014 Elkhart County 4-H Fair started, fair officials were certain the wifi connection on the fairgrounds would hold up.
But the fixes implemented last year still weren't enough to keep the 269,064 people who attended the fair consistently connected.
Josh Culp, a member of the fair’s tech committee, said the fairgrounds need at least five times the internet connectivity it has now.
"I think we realize there’s a big change, in that now fair goers are all on smart phones,” said Gale Gerber, another member of the 4-H tech committee. “The system failed because it was so overloaded.”
Internet problems are more than just an annoyance for patrons who want to hook up to social media, though. Culp said vendors also struggled to accept credit card payments. That’s a big deal, he said, and it’s something that could eventually affect the fair in a big way.
However, he and Gerber aren't as concerned that internet problems will keep the average fair goer away.
"Everybody loves the fair, and they are still going to come — I don’t think the internet connection will affect that,” Gerber said.
Still, fixing the problem is a must and the tech committee is actively searching for a solution. That solution will likely involve beefing up the current wireless system, plus having vendors and patrons use separate networks. Culp suggested that the fair could even add fiber optics underground as a backup to the wireless internet.
These potential fixes all come with steep price tags. It’s too soon to say how much the fair board might pay for internet upgrades, but Gerber said it could be several thousand dollars.
This year may have been the tipping point for board members, though.
"I think you’ll see a resounding yes vote on taking care of this,” Gerber said.
Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks