The anecdotal accounts of fairgoers matches the numbers: last week was one of significant growth for the Southwest Washington Fair, according to Fair and Events Manager Tamara Hayes.
Attendance for the six-day fair, which ended Sunday, was up about 10 percent from the previous year, Hayes said. Friday and Saturday nights were the busiest times, with long lines to get in at the main entrances. She declined to give out specific numbers, explaining that she’s chosen to go by percentages this year after speaking with people involved in the Washington State Fair.
“I think it’s redundant,” Hayes said. “I’m trying to get away from that number, because people cling to it and tell us we’re either up or down. For me, the numbers mean the fairgrounds was full of people, they were happy, and we made more money than last year.”
The carnival saw the most significant uptick from 2018, according to Hayes. Saturday night’s take was about 11 percent better than the same time last year and the overall numbers were up about 10 percent.
Attendance Friday was not affected by the last-minute cancelation of the cage fights scheduled for that evening. Hayes said it was a mutual decision by fair staff and promoters Xumout and Echovalor Striking & MMA to scrap the fights due to low ticket sales. They were moved to a different location.
The section that saw the biggest dip in participation were the exhibits, which counted about 300 fewer entries than last year. The drop wasn’t as bad as Hayes had feared, but still enough to let fair staff know they need to reexamine how they draw entries for those contests.
“It’s a critical part of having a good fair to have strong participation from 4-H and (Future Farmers of America), because we don’t want to just become a commercial fair,” Hayes said. “The reason we have such a long fair is because we have a split show with the animals, because we don’t have space to do it all at once. We don’t want to cut that down.”
As far as individual attractions, Hayes singled out the Wenatchee Youth Circus as a standout newcomer and said fair staff may look at how to secure their participation for the 2020 fair. Some of the best food vendors were located near the blue pavilion at the south end of the fairgrounds, but foot traffic didn’t match what was expected.
“People come in the green and the red gates and don’t get past the main set of food vendors to see the ones down further south,” Hayes said. “I think for next year, (Marketing Specialist Pat Slusher) and I are going to do a lot of walking around and figuring out how to reorganize it so the food vendors get the amount of people they need.”