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County fair boosters are counting on turnaround

By Brenda Sexton, The Courier-Herald

First-year King County Fair Manager David Marks says the slight decline in attendance at this year's five-day event is pointing to a turnaround.

"It was the first time I've been here," Marks said. "It's a great fair. It's got a personality about it that's rather unique.

"A few tweaks, the economy turns around and we're there," he said. "There's been a decline in attendance the last four or five years, but now we're seeing a plateau and we're ready to turn it around."

Preliminary attendance numbers show 64,821 visitors passing through the gates at this year's King County Fair, down about 2.4 percent from last year. Saturday and Sunday were the biggest days with approximately 15,000 visitors each day.

Marks believes the economy was partially to blame for lower-than-anticipated turnout. The economy definitely put a crimp in revenue, he said, although those numbers were not available. Marks said those who attended the fair admitted to marketing people when asked they were not spending as much as they usually do on food, carnival activities or vendor booths.

Revenue for the new concert approach was encouraging, Marks said. This year's decision to fence off top entertainers like Sawyer Brown, Jo Dee Messina and Teri Clark and charge regular concert ticket prices helped the fair recoup some of those costs.

Marks said Clark's Sunday evening concert was by far the most popular and best attended.

The days of free concerts are likely gone, but Marks said he would like to try and keep at least one concert free, or at least have a minimal charge. This year popular Pacific Northwest band The Beatniks was free Saturday night.

Marks said adjustments will be made to make next year's event bigger, better and bring more people through the gates.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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