TOPSFIELD — A parking space at the Topsfield Fair runs $8, but this year they may be more scarce than usual.
Recent rains washed out much of a main parking lot on Route 1, leading Fair officials to rely more on other nearby parking lots and a Masconomet schools parking lot.
Topsfield police Chief Evan Haglund said parking may be more challenging this year, but the improvements should make it easier. He says people from Interstate 95 should avoid Route 1, the most direct exit for the Topsfield Fair itself, and instead head one exit north, to Exit 51 for Endicott Street, where the Masconomet schools are. A shuttle bus there runs continuously.
Fair spokeswoman Sally O'Maley said the recent rains soaked fields and raised the Ipswich River, losing a couple hundred parking spaces for today's opening. If forecasts are correct for good weather this weekend, all the spaces could be dried out and reopened before the fair closes Oct. 13.
O'Maley said this weekend's Fair will run a parking lot behind the Essex County Co-op across the street from the fairgrounds on Route 1, with an attendant to direct people. The Masconomet schools run their own parking service with 383 spots, which weren't all used last year, she said. The fair opens at 4 p.m. today.
Haglund said signs on Interstate 95 would try to direct people to park at the Masconomet schools. If traffic backs up too far on Route 1, police may redirect traffic back to the schools, he said.
Police will be enforcing parking bans along nearby streets, such as along both sides of South Main Street, to keep traffic moving and allow emergency access.
"We ask that they do obey the signage, otherwise the vehicles will be towed," he said. "We just hope people have respect for property and the signs, and everyone's here to have a good time."
In an e-mail to town residents, Haglund said drivers should be more cautious because visitors won't be familiar with local roads and may start and stop frequently or use cell phones while driving. Residents should leave plenty of distance between cars, have patience, use alternate routes around congestion and give themselves time to get where they need to go, he said.