When the last animals were taken home and the lights went out on the Ferris wheel, it turned out about 7,000 fewer people paid for entrance this year to the 171st Annual Lorain County Fair.
The fair sold 118,568 admission tickets this year compared to 125,718 in 2015.
Fair board secretary Charisse Nikel said attendance was 16,249 Monday, 15,481 Tuesday, 16,003 Wednesday, 11,819 Thursday, 20,985 Friday, 22,971 Saturday, and 15,060 on Sunday.
None of those days quite matched the record set on the Saturday of last year’s fair, when 28,172 people bought tickets. Nikel said while the gate may be down, the numbers don’t take into account those who got in with passes such as senior citizens.
“The storms didn’t help us very much over the weekend,” she said. “On the days that seniors and veterans get in for free, we don’t include them in our gate numbers. Our paid attendance can be a little misleading sometimes. It’s not the actual attendance.”
A loss of 7,000 tickets amounts to about $35,000 in revenue but Nikel said she did not hear vendors speak of slower business or lower revenue for the week as a whole.
She said paid attendance was down to 113,000 when she started in her position back in 2009 but climbed back up to an average of 130,000 from 2010 to 2014.
“The vendors that came to my window all said they were having a good year,” she said. “I didn’t really have anyone say they were down. Bread-N-Brew said they were doing well and we’ve already had vendors put down some deposits for next year. New vendors and existing ones were both satisfied with their revenue, from everything I’ve heard. Some said the week started out slow but it picked up by the end.”
Fair board president Brian Twining said the stormy and hot weather as well as back-to-school preparations also could have driven down paid admissions.
“During our prime attendance days, people had to decide to come to the fair when it was either raining or really dark out to the west,” he said. “Some people just aren’t going to come. Wednesday and Thursday had rain too. Friday was good but Saturday and Sunday had bad weather again. More and more schools are also going back earlier too. My alma mater, Black River, would never think about starting school during the fair when I was there. They started during the week this year.”
He said the Junior Fair sent 95 kids to the Ohio State Fair in Columbus this year. Those who made the trip recorded 113 placings and 24 reserve class championships.
“People don’t realize how great our Junior Fair kids are,” he said. “It’s one of the really hidden secrets in our county. I tell them all the time that they’re rock stars. They are looked up to by the younger kids. I let them know they are role models to everyone coming up. Younger people want to turn into them as they grow up and seeds have been planted for the future because of them.”
Rallies were held to protest the sale of the Confederate flag at the fair in Lorain and Elyria to mark the beginning and the end of the week. Twining said he does not think they had an impact on attendance.
“In speaking with other fair organizers in northeast and central Ohio, they saw even bigger drops than we did,” he said. “We dropped about five percent and some of them approached 30 percent. Sometimes it just happens that way. As far as the rallies and petitions, they had nothing to do with our attendance, in my opinion.”
The week ended in tragedy Sunday when a 38-year-old Lorain woman who was leaving the fair was killed in an apparent hit-skip crash around 9:15 p.m.
The suspect, Gregg Box, 61, of Strongsville, fled the scene and rear-ended a car at the corner of state Rt. 58 and US 20 before being apprehended at the Wellington Burger King by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Police said Box was drunk.
“It put my complaints about attendance being down into perspective very quickly,” said Twining. “I don’t have to plan a funeral for a family member. The only thing that’s keeping my mind together is hoping she had a good time at our fair. Here I am whining and crying that we didn’t have more people and there’s a family out there going through this. I offer them my deepest condolences. It’s absolutely tragic.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media Paid attendance dipped from from 125,718 last year to 118,568 this year at the Lorain County Fair. Board members say it was due to weather and more school districts starting classes in August.