SLIDESHOW: More than 35,000 flock to Enumclaw fair

McKenzie Adams

City officials seemed to be all smiles Saturday night as Enumclaw’s King County Fair wrapped up a three-day run that was, by all accounts, a rousing success.

There was room for plenty of questions a week ago, with the city on the verge of offering a fair for the first time. But after 72 hours of sunshine, positive feedback and good crowds, spirits were high.

The recent history of the fair has been well documented, from King County’s slow strangulation of a once-vibrant attraction to Ron Sims’ eventual decision to discontinue the fair following a dismal 2008 offering. Public feedback convinced members of the county council to restore funding and the city of Enumclaw agreed to handle the task of running the fair, with only six months to plan the event.

The most important factor in determining all-around success will be finances, and it will be a couple of weeks before the final dollars and cents are tallied.

But some other numbers stand out. City officials were hoping for 30,000 visitors, a mark that was cleared sometime Saturday. Gate counts showed 9,552 guests Thursday, 9.985 Friday and 15,581 Saturday for a total of 35,118.

“We were secretly hoping for 32,000,” Fair Manager Joan Lewis said, “so 35,000 was a very pleasant surprise.”

Last year, when King County offered the fair with an agricultural emphasis – meaning no carnival rides and few vendors – the official headcount was 17,000.

Another key number was tallied in the parking lots. The city offered the fair with free admission, but charged $5 for parking. The budget was built with the hope of collecting $20,000 in parking revenue, a figure that was easily surpassed. Unofficial numbers show the parking total at $27,000.

Not a dollars-and-cents item, but still very important, was a Saturday visit by a representative from the Washington State Fairs Association. The fair’s review went well, good news since the flow of 4-H money from the state is tied to the association’s view of the operation.

The city’s involvement is the fair has been for one year only. When the decision was made to save the fair for 2009, a committee was formed to examine all aspects of the event, look at how other fairs are presented and to take input from those in the industry. That group is charged with offering a recommendation regarding future fair operations; that word is expected in early August, Lewis said.

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