Attendance at agricultural fairs in Fryeburg, Oxford and Farmington was lower than expected – and wet weather was mostly to blame, officials said.

Suzanne Grover, the president of Oxford County Fair, said the overall numbers were up by about 50 percent from 2007 with about 40,000 total attending, but that was mostly because officials added three days to the schedule, making it a full week in September.

“If we would have had better weather we would have knocked everybody’s socks off,” Grover said Thursday. She said a day or two of rain could really affect a fair’s bottom line, and that the extended schedule would be on again next year.

Grover speculated that the general state of the economy and the high price of gasoline kept people from traveling to attend the fair.

“I think people, in general, are staying closer to home,” she said. “We saw a lot more locals this year than we saw people from other places.”

The Farmington Fair in September was also affected by rain, said fair secretary Neal Yeaton. He estimated attendance at about a third of what it was in 2007.

“When a weekend day is lost to the weather, it’s hard to make up,” Yeaton said.

He said attendance was down almost every day, although turnout was good on Wednesday and Saturday.

At the Fryeburg Fair, the state’s largest, which is still under way, fair secretary June Hammond said a rainy opening day Sunday had a big impact on attendance.

Hammond said opening day 2007 saw

About 20,000 people attended opening day in 2007; this year, it was 9,200.

“It was not a nice day,” Hammond said.

On Monday, with sunshine and one of the bigger draws of the fair – woodsmen’s day competitions – attendance was within 1,000 of 2007 with about 22,000 people.

With sunshine in the forecast for Saturday, Hammond said she was optimistic for a big closing weekend and hoped overall numbers would be boosted. The final day is Sunday.

“We will make up some of it,” she said.

Regional editor Scott Thistle and staff writers M. Dirk Langeveld and Ann Bryant contributed to this report.

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