Weather clouds fair’s attendance

Monday, July 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:56 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

First, the brightly colored tent came down. Then, the metal fencing that surrounds it. Frederick Barton, a carnival employee put on his hard hat, splashed through the muddy grass and headed toward his tool box. The horses of the carousel were unmounted on the bottom and swaying gently with the breeze.

“I have been doing this for 10 years. Another fair is done,” Barton said as he adjusted his hard hat with the words “Old Man” written on the top.

Bad weather, high-priced ham and a new parking lot marked this year’s fair.

“We are down in our attendance,” said George Harris, fair grounds general manager, as he looked over the week’s attendance figures. “We are down in our revenue.”

Early in the week there were heat advisories. Late in the week it rained, forcing the truck and tractor pull to be canceled and the carnival to close early on Saturday.

Harris said the attendance was a couple thousand less than the 77,112 people who attended the fair in 2003.

“It would have been the same, if the carnival did not have to close earlier,” Harris said.

Packing up her trailer Sunday morning, Lorena Nutting took apart her display on the main drag of the carnival.

Nutting cited the weather as the reason for not doing well at the fair, saying it went from hot to cold over the course of the week.

Harris said in spite of the lower turnout, there had been some significant increases. The winning ham this year sold for $240 per pound at the ham auction on Saturday. Steer prices rose slightly, at $1.60 per pound. Talent Show attendance and participation were also up.

The Horse Show, one of the only events that carried on through the rain, was comparable to last year’s show. It included 210 horses, some of which traveled from as far as Oregon.

One of the improvements from last year was the resurfacing and packing down of the parking lot. Harris said the change made parking more convenient for visitors.

Still, there was a lot for this year’s fair to live up to.

“Last year was a record year,” Harris said.

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