FRYEBURG – Damp weather early in the week coupled with economic worries contributed to a 20 percent drop in attendance at this year’s eight-day Fryeburg Fair.

“The economy certainly affected our fair this year, no question about it,” said President Roy Andrews on Monday as he watched vendors pack up their rigs, equipment dealers load tractors and campers head for home.

Final attendance figures calculated Monday morning showed a total daily paid attendance of 145,955 for the week, off 38,292 from last year’s crowd of 185,247. The 2007 fair ranked as the fourth best. The largest attendance came in 2004 when more than 200,000 people bought tickets.

Each day was down from last year, with opening day suffering the most because of daylong rain. The first Sunday attracted only 9,219, off 16,928. Monday, Woodsmen’s Day, saw 22,190 attend, about the same as the previous year. Senior Citizens Day on Tuesday was about the same as 2007 but rain returned Wednesday and attendance dipped to 8,851, about half the previous year.

With improving weather, the rest of the week posted strong turnouts. Thursday saw 16,397 (down 3,302 from 2007) while Friday attracted 23,011 (down 4,871). Saturday, always the biggest day of the week, filled the grounds with 37,106, only a few less than the year before.

With the earlier inclement weather, fair officials had hoped for strong attendance on the final Sunday. The final tally showed 17,797 paid their way in compared to 20,391 in 2007.

“When we did have good weather, folks didn’t seem to be spending like they have in past years,” Andrews said. “Some of the vendors told us that they were off by as much as 40 percent.”

Ironically, camping reservations were up this year.

“We figured with the economy being what it is, we would be down,” said veteran camping Supt. Glenn Chute. “But reservations kept coming in all summer and by fair time there weren’t many vacant spots.” The fair took in more than 5,000 reservations for the 3,000 sites that have power and water hookups.

The turbulent times also showed up in two other areas. The pari-mutuel handle or amount bet at the race track was down 20 percent, as was the amount of money that passed through the four high-speed ATM machines. Ken Ronco, co-racing director, said the weather clearly had a big effect on the $657,500 handle.

Despite the weather, Andrews said the fair had some of the best night shows ever with Lady Antebellum, Emerson Drive and Little Texas. The 4-wheel drive pull Sunday drew a huge crowd and a near record number of competitors. And it was a great week of livestock competition as more than 4,000 animals showed in front of judges from across the country.

“The teenagers didn’t seem to realize there was a recession,” Andrews said, noting that all of the 50 rides provided by Smokey’s Greater Shows were busy most of the day Sunday. “Many of them had long lines of kids waiting.”

For additional information, results and photos from the dozens of competitions in the livestock, Woodsmen’s, pulling and other areas, visit www.fryeburgfair.org in the coming weeks. Next year’s fair runs from Oct. 4-11.


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