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N.C. State Fair attendance off from 2007 highs

Posted October 26, 2008
Updated October 27, 2008

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— The North Carolina State Fair ended on a sunny note, with record attendance on Sunday.

“Sunday’s attendance of 101,775 was a record for the final day, and that was a great way to end the 2008 State Fair,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. “Even though we had some rainy days and cool temperatures during the Fair, folks still came out and had a great time.”

The fair opened Oct. 16 and ran through Sunday, welcoming a total of 765,067 visitors. This year's attendance got a boost from a new preview day, when 35,215 crossed through the gates.

However, it was not enough to push it past the record 2007 level, when the fair attracted 858,611 people.

Overall, attendance in 2008 was off 11 percent from last year, but in line with the 20-year average. The busiest day was the last day. 

Vendors, such as the St. Paul's Christian Church Restaurant, say the smaller crowds this year have cut into their bottom line.

The group donates most of their revenue for charitable missions. In a good year, they can raise as much as $20,000. This year; however, that number will likely be closer to $12,000.

"If we're off 20 percent, we were up 10 percent last year. So we give thanks that we're off only 10 percent or off 15 percent,” said pastor Phil Jones, with St. Paul's Christian Church.

Cloudy and rainy weather kept crowds down by as much as 20 percent the first weekend of the fair, but attendance jumped with better weather in the middle of the week.

"We've had a rainy and cool fair,” State Fair Public Affairs Director Brian Long said.

Saturday's attendance was a rain-dampened 76,000. That's compared with a single-day record of nearly 146,000 set the same day last year.

"You've got the economy and that puts a lot of pressure on your weather. And then when you throw in some iffy days weather wise on top of that, that can make a difference. It can affect your turnout, and it can affect the people that do come out, what they are doing,” Long said.

Jones says the lower profits just gives him and other nonprofits more inspiration to try harder at their next fundraising event.


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  • Dr. Dataclerk Oct 30, 2008

    With the economy the way it is right now doing the presidential elections, people losing their jobs and homes - its no wonder the attendance was not high at the NC State Fair. Maybe next year will be much better.

  • Outside the Beltline Oct 27, 2008

    It's a shame so many people didn't have a good time at the fair. I didn't get a chance to go this year because of work commitments, but I love seeing the agricultural exhibits, especially the gigantic pumpkins and the craft sections. It's amazing what people will put their heart and soul into - this year, I heard one craftsman even made his own coffin! For $7 or less, it's a better deal than going to the movies, and the parking's free if you go to the right lot.

    I don't like fair rides or much in the way of fair food, but I'll happily support the local churches and charity food stands. Next time I go, I'd like to try some of the fresh NC State ice cream, but the line's usually too long.

  • bngexpress Oct 27, 2008

    with people trying to save their homes, buy gas to go to work,and figure out how to put food on the table, it surprises me the fair numbers were as good as they were

  • whatelseisnew Oct 27, 2008

    I have not gone to the fair for years. Never plan on attending again. It just got too expensive.

  • ConcernedNCC Oct 27, 2008

    "However, it was not enough to boost it to the 2007 level, when the fair attracted 858,611 people. The record, set in 2000, is 846,724." I guess that's the new math where 846,724 is more than 858,611.

  • common_sense_plz Oct 27, 2008

    We did go this year. It was expensive, but I was very frugel with the money. I bought tickets early and that was a plus. I did notice some things did increase in price, however it seems the hotdogs remained the same. What many do not realize is that it cost these vendors A LOT of money for their little spaces that they have to pay the state, and then income tax on top of that, and then to purchase their supplies. So in the end, I doubt that they made a great deal of money. The ones who did make the money was those homeowners that charge $5 & $10, I am assuming that this money will be going directly towards thier property taxes, and I do not blame them, I would do the same thing too. It was also nice not to have to stand in long lines.

  • blakeshiver Oct 27, 2008

    I think it was very costly to attend the fair this year in terms of money and other indirect costs such as weather, prices of other goods, crowd control, parking, etc. The best way to encourage more people to come to the fair is to try and lower these costs. The Park-N-Ride and advanced ticket sales were both valid attempts but paying 5 tickets per person to ride the giant Ferris Wheel for 2 minutes counter balances all of those efforts. Most people that I have talked to mainly complained about ride prices and food prices.

  • lukie Oct 27, 2008

    Thanks ITSNEW2ME and DEATHROW-IFEELYOURPAIN-NOT I agree. You should spend your time looking as exhibits and shows. It doesn't cost you extra....and you can get a wholesome lesson about what NC is really about. AGRICULTURE!!!!

  • verboten Oct 27, 2008

    Helpful tips:
    --Get tix in advance at gate 9 (or other outlets) = $5 each.
    --Free parking at Carter Finley right across from Youth Center Drive - getting there before 9 a.m. makes parking a breeze even with other events like football or hockey scheduled.
    --Horse show is free - don't need to use a ticket to get in, and you can see the fireworks in the evening perfectly. Good place to sit down and rest those tired legs, and get fed in their home-cookin' style restaurant.
    --Bring a backpack with your own munchies, drinks and lunch if you don't want to spend too much on overpriced food ($5 for a footlong?? Get real!)
    --Blow off doing all the rides - go to all the exhibits for animals, flowers, horticulture, art/photography, crafts. That's what the fair is supposed to be all about, and kids especially will be interested in that stuff.

  • 007KnightRider Oct 27, 2008

    whosonfirst - I agree

    What was the attendance total for this year?