Clark County Fair breaks ticket sales, food records

Attendance tops last year's 10-year high

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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County fairs are known for being the home to record-setting produce and animals, but this year the Clark County Fair set several records of its own.

It was a banner year.

Over the course of the fair's 10 days, 272,896 people passed through the gates, topping last year's 10-year high of 269,269. Both numbers include employees and fair volunteers, of which there are roughly 2,000.

John Morrison, the county's fair manager, attributed the bump in attendance to the exhibits on display, which included trained sea lions and pirate-themed high divers. Another new exhibit was Toytopia, an interactive display that explored the origins of various toys, their cultural value and why they have a nostalgic impact on people.

"I think we put it together right this year," Morrison said.

With more people came more money. Ticket sales for entry to the fair hit an all-time high, peaking at $835,986, a 2 percent increase over 2013. Food sales accounted for $1.63 million, while the carnival netted $1.37 million. Both were records.

There must be a lot of fans of carnival gastronomy in Clark County, because food sales jumped by roughly $100,000 between 2013 and now.

This year's fair was notable for bringing concerts back to the grandstands, a move that organizers attributed to boosting food concession sales.

The weather likely also played a role in the overall bump in attendance, with warm, relatively mild temperatures breezing through the county during the fair's 10-day run. The hottest day, Sunday, was also the fair's weakest for attendance.

Saturday was the busiest day, with more than 37,000 people making their way to the Clark County Fairgrounds.

With another fair in the rearview mirror, sights are now set on topping it next year, fair organizers say.

"We are already working on our featured exhibits," said Heidi O'Hara, director of sales and marketing for the fairgrounds. "There are some other acts we are looking at, and have to book them as early as possible. We are already in the process of doing that."

But is there pressure to top the previous year's fair?

That's not really a consideration, O'Hara said. What it comes down to is putting on an event that all ages can enjoy, she said.