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Fair attendance down

Heat wave, economy both factors in low turnout
By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein The Press-Tribune
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Attendance at the Placer County Fair dipped significantly this year, officials reported this week, with scorching temperatures and a sluggish economy taking much of the blame. At press time, employees were still finalizing turnout numbers for the fair, which ran June 19-22. But Brock Wimberley, the fair’s chief executive officer, said he expected attendance to roughly match figures from 2006 – which were about half of 2007’s results, he said. About 30,000 people turned out for the fair that year. “It’s definitely down,” he said. Wimberley said the weather was a major factor for much of that decline. The fair’s run coincided with last month’s heat wave, with temperatures peaking at 103 degrees on June 21, a Saturday – traditionally the biggest day for attendance. “The weather was much, much better – I think mid-90s – in 2007,” Wimberley said. “Those temperatures have a tendency to be more appealing to patrons going out to the fair. Once you get 100-plus, people get confined to their homes and don’t want to come out, which I can’t certainly blame them. “The economy as a whole might have an effect on the decrease,” Wimberley added. Unpredictable weather is always a risk for major outdoor events, of course, but Wimberley said fair officials were considering installing permanent improvements at the fairgrounds to mitigate the heat impact in future years. In 2005, a similar heat wave that hit 108 degrees during the fair also reduced turnout. “We’re looking at some additional shade structure areas, and maybe some water features or fountains,” he said. In addition, future fairs could open later and stay open later, providing more time for people to come during the cooler evening hours, he said. Despite the lower-than-normal turnout, Wimberley said many fair events and attractions proved popular with those who did turn out this year. He said a well-designed exhibit center inside Johnson Hall made for higher-than-usual interest in 4-H and other community-judged entries. In addition, the Welde Bear Show continued to show that Placer fairgoers really enjoy seeing big animals up-close. “Exotic animals tend to draw those out who might not see them at the zoo,” said Wimberley. A kids’ zone featuring hands-on agriculture education also proved a winner. “Attendance was down significantly from last year, but the fair overall was a huge success,” Wimberley said. “I measure that based on folks who did make it out – how much fun did they have, and did they enjoy themselves?”