State Fair attendance numbers released

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By Tim McNicholas

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Updated: Mon, 09 Sep 2013 08:34:48 CST

Since the State Fair moved to Grand Island, the attendance has increased each year... until this year. News 5's Tim McNicholas went down to Fonner Park and took a closer look as the numbers were released Tuesday. There were 91,185 people at the Cornhusker's home opener. That means Memorial Stadium had Nebraska's third largest population last Saturday. Multiply that by 3 and a half and you almost have the total attendance for the Nebraska State Fair. But that number - believe it or not - is down from last year. "Quite frankly, you can't expect an increase every year especially when you have the temperatures and humidity that we had this year," said Nebraska State Fair Executive Director Joe McDermott. Most of those who did attend enjoyed their experience. Fairgoers ranked their overall enjoyment at 4.4 out of five, and over 93 percent said they'd recommend the event to friends. "I love the fair so I really like doing it, but it's a relief to get back to reality and I look forward to 2014," said fried Oreos stand owner Jim Ritzman, So with such positive feedback, why such low attendance? Many are blaming the heat. Ritzman sold more ice waters on one 91 degree day than a 98 degree day. "It's pretty bad when the heat gets to 98 and people don't come out so they really all came out on the last weekend," said Ritzman. Extreme temperatures were recorded on nine out of the fair's 11 days. "Take into consideration the heat that we had this last year and we actually feel really fortunate that we were only down 2,000," McDermott said. But, attendance wasn't down everyday. Sept. 1 marked the highest attendance since the fair moved to Grand Island - 71,355 people poured in. That's the second most in Nebraska State Fair history. 64 percent of the surveyed fairgoers said this year's fair was better than last year's. Many fairgoers were from right here in town. Over 61% of those in attendance were from Central Nebraska.
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