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Archive for Tuesday, September 26, 2006

State fair a success, numbers indicate

September 26, 2006

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— Preliminary numbers indicate that this year's Kansas State Fair rebounded from several years of lagging attendance, fair officials said.

While final attendance figures aren't yet tabulated, such things as Midway ticket sales and food sales rose significantly this year, said Denny Stoecklein, the fair manager.

North American Midway grossed $1.05 million, an 11.3 percent increase over last year and the company's highest total since 2000, he said. Money collected at the outside ticket gates increased 14 percent.

"Obviously, we're very pleased with these numbers," Stoecklein said. "We're anxious to get the ticket audit completed so we can see how our attendance measures up with previous years."

Last year's fair drew 324,705 - the lowest turnout in 15 years except in 2001, when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hurt fair attendance.

Stoecklein said last year's fair occurred when gas was nearly $3 a gallon, but gas prices fell more than 80 cents by this year's fair.

"There are two factors that play a pretty good role that we can't control," Stoecklein said. "One is the weather and the other is gas prices."

This year's grandstand concerts also did well, with television star and singer Raven Symone selling out the nearly 9,600-seat grandstand. Lynyrd Skynyrd and Carrie Underwood drew 5,000 and 6,000 concertgoers, respectively.

Nearly everything increased over last year, including Kansas' Largest Classroom, which showcased the fair to 7,156 students, up 23 percent from 2005. Kansas schools also brought 111 marching bands, or 6,445 students, the most since 2002.

The Kansas Lottery sold $184,000 in everything from online games and Keno to instant tickets, breaking a previous record of $171,000 in 2000.

Final figures on food revenues weren't yet tallied, but vendors said they did well this year.

Hutchinson resident Charlie Griffin, who has several concessions across the fairgrounds, said this year's fair "was the best fair since 9/11."

"People are realizing just how good our little fair is," he said. "I'm sure it wasn't just one thing, but a number of things together."

Pronto Pup owner Dick Yoder, who has sold the fair staple of hot dogs dipped in batter for 45 years, said he had record sales this year. Revenues dropped 21 percent in 2001 and have grown slowly in the last five years, he said.

"This is just the best year ever," Yoder said. "Lot more people, and more new customers. Talking with our operators and so forth, we had many people say they had never had a Pronto Pup."

Stoecklein also noted marketing efforts aimed at attracting new fair visitors, including Kansas' Hispanic population.

"All in all, everything seemed to click and go well," he said.

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