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N.C. State Fair attendance off from 2007 highs

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

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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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