Preliminary figures show that attendance at this year’s Williams County Fair — Sept. 7-14 — was up about 5,000 to 7,000 over past years, Fair Board President Matt Kennedy said Friday.
The increase would stem a steady decline over the past several years. Last year’s attendance was a little more than 58,000, which was down from 61,000 in 2017 and about 66,000 in 2016.
Kennedy said the fair sold about 990 tickets to the Blue Oyster Cult/Rare Earth classic rock concert on Sept. 7, and it was well-received.
“We had someone who said they came all the way from Iowa to see (the concert),” Kennedy said.
He said concert attendance was less than the Fair Board had hoped for, but sponsorships would help cushion the deficit. He said ticket prices haven’t risen for about a decade — grandstand admission was $20 this year — and the Fair Board may look at adjusting ticket prices.
Kennedy also said the board is already making plans for next year’s featured musical entertainment, setting a concert budget on Thursday of $60,000 for 2020.
“We’re looking at the possibility of having two nights of music next year, having a classic rock on Saturday and a Christian rock band on Sunday,” Kennedy said. “It all depends on our sponsorships ... our goal is to keep (concerts) affordable.”
Mild temperatures and almost no rain helped attendance at this year’s fair, along with sponsorship from the county commodity groups, which made attendance free for Thursday. Kennedy said entertainment and events every day on the midway entertainment stage was also a big draw this year.
“It gave fairgoers a little more bang for their buck,” he said.
“We’re very appreciative of our sponsors this year and appreciative of all the support from everyone who attended this year and we’re looking forward to 2020,” Kennedy said.
Also at its meeting Thursday, the board voted 9-7 to accept the resignation of Fair Board member and board Vice President Alan Bennett. He was the District 2 representative to the board.
“I felt I needed to take a step back ... I’ll have the option to run (for the board) again,” he said, adding he hasn’t yet made a decision if he will run for a seat on the board again, but must make the decision prior to next month’s Oct. 17 monthly meeting.
“I don’t want this to detract from the team effort by this board, who put together the best fair we’ve had in the five years I’ve been on the Fair Board. I salute the senior fair board, the junior fair board, who stepped up big time this year, and all of our sponsors this year. No one can say the fair family didn’t work as a team to make this one of the best fairs we’ve had,” Bennett said.
The board will vote on officers on Nov. 2. In the meantime, Kennedy must appoint a replacement for Bennett.
Bennett, of West Unity, has served as a board member for about five years and as vice president for about three years.
Kennedy declined to comment on his vote. He said he did not hear any specific issues with Bennett from those who voted to accept his resignation.