The final numbers are just being counted, but the manager of the Great Northern Fairgrounds said the 2011 fair in Hill County looks like it came just short of a record.
“We’re close to a thousand dollars less” than the record year, manager Tim Solomon said after the Hill County Fair Board monthly meeting Tuesday.
Solomon said the dollars spent at the carnival look to be down for this year, but other activities almost made up the entire difference.
He said he believes the high numbers are likely a result of concern about the economy coupled with high gasoline prices.
“I think that’s a factor, with people staying home more, ” he said. “With the price of gas, people are not going around the country as much. ”
Because the Great Northern Fair doesn’t charge for admission or parking, there is no way to track how many people actually attend the fair, but with the numbers in the carnival and at events, experts estimate Hill County’s fair to bring in about 30,000 people, Solomon said. He said he, himself, is not sure if that is accurate.
“Our numbers, they tell us what they are, but I’ve always questioned it, ” he said.
Adding admission or parking fees would allow a more accurate count as well as generating some revenue, but Solomon said that could be counterproductive.
Much of the traffic at the fair is from repeat business, with many people coming to the fair more than one day, or even every day it runs.
Charging for admission or parking could cut into that repeat traffic, Solomon said.
The repeat traffic also makes it harder to judge how many people actually came to the fair — with repeat visits, that could account for the higher-than expected estimate of how many visit, he said.
Solomon suggested during the board meeting that he would like to see some changes in the attractions, possibly reducing the amount spent on free stage entertainment to increase the main attractions.
He also said the fair is looking into bringing back a successful previous free stage attraction who has been absent the past few years, Jeff Martin, The Blonde Curly Haired Magician.
“He’s really good, ” board Chair Tom Farnham said, adding he usually takes Martin to perform at other locations when he is in town.
“He is one of the best we’ve had, ” Solomon said.
Solomon said other attractions might bring more people — and more revenue — to the fair. One he listed was greased pig wrestling, which has become a major attraction at the Blaine County Fair and other fairs in the area.
Board member Andy Owens said the Blaine County event originally was held inside, but then had to be moved outdoors and now is held east of the grandstands at the Blaine County fairgrounds.
When it was held in a barn, he said, “they had so many people come that they turned people away. ”
Solomon said the Great Northern Fair wouldn’t have to focus on pig wrestling, but he would like to see ideas on something new.
Board member Peggy Nivens also suggested that the fair could bring back a talent show, which has not been held for several years.