The 1994 Utah State Fair will win no blue ribbons in fair attendance, drawing about 12,000 fewer fairgoers in its first six-day run than in recent years.
Attendance records show that in 1993, 140,277 people visited the fairgrounds during the first six days of the traditional 11-day run. That number dropped slightly from 141,696 in 1992.This year, considerably fewer fairgoers - 127,914 - have passed through the Fairpark's gates since the opening day Sept. 8.
"We'll have to get some good crowds in the next week in order to have an above-average year," said fair spokesman Russ Behrman. "But we are not going to have a record breaker."
However, Behrman said, the good news is this year's fair total attendance number for the first week is higher than the three-year, total-attendance average of 119,600. In the three-year statistics, the 1991 fair, which was plagued by inclement weather, had considerably lower attendance than the other two years, pulling down the average.
Some blame the poor turnout on the cooler weather. But Behrman said he has felt "two drops of rain since the fair opened. We've been really lucky. We see storm clouds in the distance and they disappear before they hit the fair."
"It might be the weather," said Donna Dahl, assistant fair director. "But who knows? We've got a super fair, and we just hope people will continue to come out."
Because of increased entrance and parking fees, the fair is experiencing a financial boon, even though attendance numbers are down.
Fair officials upped the price of parking from $2 to $3 and entrance fees from $4 to $5 for adults and from $2 to $3 for children.
"Because it was suggested to us by the state Legislature that the fair be self-sufficient, we decided that (raising admittance prices) was the only way to increase revenue," Behrman said. "But I don't know if we will ever be self-sufficient."
Behrman added he didn't think the increased prices are the reason for the disappointing attendance figures.
"Theoretically, there is some kind of formula you can use to figure the people you take out of the market, but I don't think it has hurt the fair."
"We haven't had any complaints about the prices," Dahl said. "But I'm sure that everything you do, there will be an effect."
Dahl and Behrman both blame negative publicity over a gang-related shooting last year and the controversy surrounding the possibility of moving the state fair to another location as possible reasons for low-attendance totals.
What if fair attendance numbers continue to decline?
"I don't think it impacts anything," Behrman said. "We fought so many uphill battles even before the fair started this year. The fair office was getting calls to see if there was even going to be a fair. Things were happening outside the control of the fair administration, and the best thing we could do is address those fears."
Fair officials hope the concerts - featuring the Neville Brothers and Paul Revere and the Raiders - and warmer weather this weekend will draw larger crowds until closing day, Sunday, Sept. 18.
Day-by-day fair attendance
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
Day 1 5,804 5,120 6,916 6,553 6,088
Day 2 19,448 9,465 23,151 21,245 20,312
Day 3 39,583 18,054 42,332 43,486 40,228
Day 4 31,272 25,957 32,657 34,197 29,739
Day 5 17,323 13,147 17,201 18,351 14,794
Day 6 18,310 11,331 19,442 16,445 16,753
Day 7 18,147 14,874 21,286 18,325
Day 8 21,356 16,904 21,088 13,702
Day 9 33,009 33,162 33,647 19,213
Day 10 40,842 43,920 49,031 25,601
Day 11 25,507 38,220 27,911 27,617