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Attendance, revenue down this year at state fair
BY PORTSIA SMITH
Attendance at the State Fair of Virginia was nowhere near the record numbers it hit last year, but fair officials say they are pleased with the turnout.
Early estimates show that there were between 160,000 and 200,000 fairgoers this year, said Greg Hicks, spokesman for the Virginia Farm Bureau, which co-owns the fair.
In 2011, fair attendance peaked at nearly 270,000. Official 2012 numbers should be released this week, he said.
"We really didn't know what to expect, being that people didn't know there was going to be a fair at all," Hicks said. "Being that we only had 70 days to plan the fair and advertising went out two weeks before the event, we were pleased with the turnout."
He said there were at least 10,000 people each day on the weekdays and the weekend attendance was excellent, considering the weather, with the second Saturday approaching a record high. He said the last day of the fair was a "washout" due to rain and cold temperatures.
"Weather is always a critical factor, so we were fortunate other than the last day," Hicks said.
The 10-day fair was the first event held at the Meadow Event Park in Caroline County since it went up for auction in May. The previous owners declared bankruptcy.
Mark Lovell, president of Universal Fairs and fair co-owner, said despite the numbers, it was a successful fair.
"I think overall the fair went really well and it ran real smooth," he said. "About 99.9 percent of the people I talked to were glad that the fair survived the bankruptcy."
Universal Fairs and the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation together own and operate the fair, as well as other events at the Meadow Event Park through a new entity called Commonwealth Fairs and Events LLC.
Next year's state fair has been scheduled for Sept. 27 to Oct. 6.
"Get ready for a bigger and better fair next year," Hicks said.
Lovell, who runs a number of fairs across the country, said they may do a few things differently and add some new attractions.
"We still have a little tweaking to do in the midway area and we want to bring back the livestock shows, 4-H, FFA and the heritage village," he said.
A youth talent show, a state fair beauty contest and a battle of the bands are some new additions he'd like to bring to the fair, he said.
From the county standpoint, Caroline Commissioner of Revenue Sharon Carter said the preliminary reports show that the county will receive about $59,000 in revenue as a result of the fair. That's down from about $80,000 last year. The final 2012 report will not be complete until after the new year, she said.
"Our numbers are down from last year about $20,000, however the revenue is exceptional for a fair that had a short window to prepare," Carter said. "Our county records show we were down about 30 vendors and with no animal competitions and the weather, I am very pleased with the revenue for the county."
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419