News

Fair crowd drops, too much sun identified as culprit

By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

The 2004 edition of the King County Fair was jump-started by a record-setting, single-day turnout, but attendance figures slipped after a tremendous opening day.

Fair officials were bemoaning the fact that the area was hit with soaring temperatures, firm in their belief the sweltering conditions kept many potential fair-goers at home.

Dave Marks, manager of the King County Fairgrounds, said two other festivals the same weekend - in Renton and Covington - suffered the same fate.

Opening day (July 21) was an unqualified success, as 24,990 guests walked through the turnstiles, setting a new single-day record and more than doubling last year's opening-day crowd.

The crowded conditions were the result of sunny skies and a special promotion that appealed to the cost-conscious. Admission and parking were just $1 each, as was entry to the popular Chris Cagle concert that evening.

After the huge opening day, however, numbers tailed off. Following are attendance figures for July 22-25, with last year's counts in parentheses: second day, 9,087 (11,318); third day, 7,395 (11,381); fourth day, 9,550 (15,680); fifth day, 9,864 (14,983).

The five-day total of 60,886 was well off the hoped-for total of 70,000, Marks said.

On the bright side, he said, "opening day told us we're on the right track."

The new emphasis for the fair, he explained, is to keep prices down while offering an old-time, family-friendly experience. Attendance had been spiraling downtown for several years, prompting the county to take a look at how it does business with regard to the fair. Changes have been made and an informal survey of fair visitors and vendors, Marks said, showed, "overwhelmingly, they liked the new fair."

That doesn't mean everything is perfect, though. Marks said there are still elements of the fair being looked at. For example, the Cagle concert was sold out in advance (2,000 seats) and perhaps another 1,000 stood around the perimeter and watched. Two other concerts, though, had sparse attendance.

"Momentum had been going in the wrong direction" for several years, Marks said. "It's going to take some effort and commitment by the county to get it rolling in the right direction."

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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