"If you think about gas prices and a reduction in spendable income, I'm sure it had an effect on it," Steve Troxler, who is in his first year as Agriculture Commissioner, said Friday night. "But right now, we're proud of where we are."
Last Saturday, more than 103,512 people attended the fair, but that was nearly 15,000 fewer than last year's record-setting Saturday attendance. Sunday's attendance did not fare much better with 90,153. Last year on the third day of the fair, attendance was 95,043. The first Friday saw a drop of more than 9,000 in attendance from last year's opening day.
But the numbers on Wednesday and Thursday outpaced 2004, which recorded the second-highest attendance ever.
Troxler also said Friday that attendance figures were 2 percent ahead of the five-year average after seven days of the fair.
Both Troxler and Rob Weber, spokesman for fair operator Wade Shows, said issues over the numbers of rides that were running on opening day impacted early attendance.
Just 61 of the 111 rides had met the state's stringent safety standards and were running when the fair began on the morning of Friday, Oct. 14.
"The facts of the matter are we had 85 rides open at noon, we had 90-plus open at 2 o'clock, and we had over a 100 open by mid-day on opening day -- the most in the history of the fair," Weber said. "That's a lot of what you don't hear. I still get calls from people who say, 'Are half the rides not open?'"
Troxler said he would wait until after the fair was over to decide if Wade Shows would be back next year.
"I've got to sit down and evaluate when this is over with -- the pluses and minuses -- and I'll make a decision," he said. "I am very happy that we do have the largest Midway in all the United States here up and running."
Troxler added that he would give this year's fair an overall grade of an "A," so far.
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