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Fair Ends Amid Raindrops, Smaller Crowds

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The weather brought mixed results to food vendors.
RALEIGH — After a 10-day run held in a combination ofsun, showers and utter downpours, the North CarolinaState Fair ended at midnight. The rain didn't dampen the spirits of fairgoers but it did leave profits all wet.

Fair organizers took comfort in Saturday's crowd because it set a newrecordfor one-day attendance. On that day, 136,000 visitors crammed thefairgrounds.

Vendors were philosophical. Their sales were often a matter of thesuitability of the day's weather to their product. So an ice cream vendorfound it slow-going on the cold, rainy days -- but that same weather gaveadded appeal to grilled corn on the cob. So handy for warming up chilledfingers.

Some of the rides were also affected by rain. In many cases, the seatswere wet but in other instances the rain also created potential safetyhazards. Wet wheels and tracks can pose problems for ride cars in stayingon the straight and narrow.

Still, vendors are ready to come back for next year. John Holder saysyouhave both good and bad years; he expects the future will make up for any 1997 losses. And, he noted, coming to the fair "gets in your blood."

Fair Information Director Jim Knight says as expected, the abnormalamount of rain dampened the event's attendance figures by roughly 16percent compared to 1996.

Knight said the figures are not as bad as they seem, however, becausethey are being compared to 1996, when the fair had record attendance. Hesaid ifthis year's event is compared to others of the past five or 10 years, itis not down significantly.

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