Fairgoers declined as temps climbed

Clark County Fair attendance down 13% from 2011; heat cited




Fairgoers take a spin on the Ring of Fire at the Clark County Fair on Aug. 9.

2012: 219,054

2011: 251,892

5-year average: 257,061

2012: 219,054

2011: 251,892

5-year average: 257,061

Attendance at the Clark County Fair was down 13 percent from 2011, and the biggest daily declines coincided with the hottest days.

The 10-day fair, which ended Sunday, attracted 219,054 people.

The fair was particularly hurt by the fact that the hottest days were on the weekends, said Fair Manager John Morrison.

For example, the five-year average attendance for the first Saturday of the fair is 26,965. This year, 17,631 people made the trip to the Clark County Fairgrounds in Ridgefield on that day.

“The 100-degree-plus temperatures certainly had an adverse impact on our attendance,” Morrison said. “As temperatures decreased, I saw a return to normal patterns.”

On the final day, attendance averages 34,225. This year, it dropped to 24,517.

Total attendance reflects everyone who walks through a gate, as counted by clicker.

Attendance in 2011 was 251,892, which was still below the five-year average attendance of 257,061.

Considering that prices for admission, parking and the carnival have been unchanged for three years, Morrison attributed the drop in attendance to the weather.

Food and beverage sales were down 8 percent from 2011; the fair gets 25 percent of those profits.

And what were the favorite foods for fairgoers? The Clark County Dairy Women retained the No. 1 spot, Morrison said. Behind milkshakes were the Ridgefield Lions Club, which serves breakfast and burgers, followed by Pad Thai Noodles, Yakisoba Noodles and The BBQ Chicken House booths.

Morrison said booths selling slushies and Dippin’ Dots did well, as fairgoers tried to stay cool.

Morrison said he responded to the heat the best he could by putting fans in the barns and opening buildings earlier in the morning to get air circulating.

No animals were sent home for heat-related reasons, he said.

Erica Erland, communications manager for Clark Public Utilities, said the PUD handed out 59,400 cups of water at the fair, up from 44,600 cups of water in 2011.

Whether the fair will turn a profit this year remains to be seen.

Some of the revenues — such as money from banks and Fred Meyer stores that sold early tickets — are still being collected, Morrison said.

It costs approximately $3 million to stage the fair, and the fair traditionally makes a profit. Last year it made $54,000 profit.

Even when the annual fair makes a profit, it’s not enough to sustain the fair fund, which covers expenses at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds and the Dr. Jack Giesy Arena.

Last year, for the first time, county commissioners had to move $300,000 from the county’s general fund to the fair fund to cover operating expenses.

In an interview last week, Commissioner Tom Mielke said he anticipates commissioners will have to move money from the general fund to the fair fund again this year.

The Clark County Fairgrounds has a lot to do with quality of life in Clark County, Mielke said.

“It’s no different from a park or swimming hole or anything else,” he said.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.