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61% WANT TO KEEP STATE FAIR WHERE IT IS

The majority of Utahns want to retain the Utah State Fair, keep it at its present location and support legislative funding to improve buildings and other facilities.

And those interviewed after attending this year's fair said they felt very safe while there, officials from Dan Jones & Associates Inc., a polling firm, told the State Fairpark Task Force Tuesday.Dan Jones, president, and Pat Jones, vice president, gave a detailed report to the task force on a study commissioned by the group during a meeting at the State Fairpark.

Tuesday's session of the 14-member group, appointed last spring by Joe Jenkins, executive director of the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development, was one of a series of ongoing sessions aimed at gathering data for a report that will contain recommendations on the best course for future fairs and use of the Fairpark.

Task force chairman William R. Shaw said he hopes the report can be submitted to Gov. Mike Leavitt by Nov. 1.

The Dan Jones survey polled more than 1,200 people between Aug. 25 and Sept. 2 on their feelings about fairs and the state exposition. Fair exit interviews were conducted with 500 visitors between Sept. 8-13. Pollsters also checked 3,400 license plates to determine areas from which visitors came. Overall polling reflects a plus or minus 2.7 percent error rate for the telephone part of the survey, the polling officials said. The survey cost the state $17,950.

The fair, which ended Sept. 18, attracted more than 257,000 people this year. That was up about 5 percent to 10 percent over the previous year. Of the 257,000 total, about 200,000 were paid admissions. Final figures are still being compiled, but this year's fair resulted in increased revenue, Joe Torres, management service coordinator and budget and accounting officer, said Wednesday.

In the Dan Jones poll, Utahns were asked for their views on improving Fairpark facilities, about moving the fair from place to place each year or eliminating the fair. Sixty-one percent of those polled said they favor improving facilities and continue holding the fair at its present location. Twenty percent said they favor moving the fair from county to county within the state each year. Nine percent said they favor eliminating the state fair and leaving fairs to individual counties. Seven percent expressed other views, and 2 percent of those polled said they didn't know.

Those polled were told it would cost $13 million to $15 million to upgrade buildings and facilities at the Fairpark. "Do you favor or oppose spending that money in order to continue holding the fair at the fairgrounds?" those polled were asked. Twenty-five percent said they strongly favored such action. Thirty-four percent "somewhat favored" the action, 15 percent were "somewhat opposed" to the action, 15 percent "strongly opposed" the action, and 12 percent said they didn't know.

The polling officials said the poll showed animals are second in popularity to fine arts exhibits at the fair. Twenty-six percent of those polled said they thought the fair was somewhat better or much better than they expected, whereas only 11 percent thought it was worse than they expected, Dan Jones said.

Sixty-one percent said they thought the fair was about what they expected. Ninety-seven percent of those who attended the fair are Utah residents with 56 percent of that number from Salt Lake County; 12 percent from Davis County; 9 percent from Weber County; and 10 percent from Utah County.

C. Booth Wallentine, chairman of the task force survey committee and the Farm Bureau Federation's chief executive officer, said "agriculture continues to be a major attraction at the state fair. Family entertainment and activities at the fair are also a big drawing card."