Sun shines on fair attendance

'Near ideal' weather translates into big crowds

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 
photoJohn Morrison

The numbers were great for the Clark County Fair, manager and CEO John Morrison said Sunday afternoon, just a few hours before the 10-day event closed.

He said he expected attendance to be in the "mid- to high 250,000s." The best attendance in the past decade was 264,998 in 2008, Morrison said.

He credited "near ideal" fair weather for the good fortune. Last year, when extreme heat hit, attendance was about 219,000.

Folks were hungry, too, Morrison said.

"Saturday, we had an all-time record for concessions," he said. An average Saturday would bring in about $167,000 for food vendors, while Saturday's was estimated at $225,000. The fair receives 25 percent of food sales.

As for rides, revenue was up about $54,000 through Saturday.

The fair also sells space to 275 commercial vendors, which brings in $400,000.

The fair has no debt, Morrison said.

Morrison said he was particularly proud of several things, including:

• "This was the fourth year that we were able to keep gate and parking prices the same."

• "We offered a wide range of things for people to see … a new set of experiences."

• "I'm happy we were able to bring the draught horses back." Those horses put on demonstrations -- including wagon pulling, log pulling and plowing — seven times. The horses come from five Clark County farms and visitors were able to greet and pet the big fellas.

• The fair had five paid amphitheater shows last year but took three of the five this year and staged them for free in the grandstand. "It was positively reacted to," Morrison said. Alan Jackson and Avett Brothers performed in the amphitheater but the grandstand hosted Kutless, Blue Öyster Cult and Kip Moore.

Challengesre main in running the fair, Morrison said.

Traffic flow and parking can be tough because the fair has just 5,200 parking spots near the midway. An additional lot on 179th Street just north of the fairgrounds can be used.

People complain the fair is too expensive, but Morrison said buying in advance gets you an $8 ticket instead of $10 at the gate and a $30 ride bracelet becomes $22 when purchased in advance.

Any other problems?

"We had a rabbit get out this year," Morrison said. The bunny was AWOL overnight but found in the morning in a corner of the barn.