Fair attendance is likely down

Rain and an earlier return to school are blamed for falling numbers, officials say

September 05, 2006|By Chris Emery | Chris Emery,sun reporter

After a rainy weekend, organizers of the Maryland State Fair expect to be disappointed when they get a finally attendance tally for this year's event.

"It's not going to be a good year," said Max Mosner, the event's general manager, who expects attendance to be down compared with previous years.

He estimated that about 350,000 people attended the fair from Aug. 24 to Sept. 4 at the state fairgrounds in Timonium.

"In a good year we have about 450,000 people," he said. Last year, 424,000 people attended, and the year before, 489,000 attended.

Rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto kept many people away from the fair Friday and Saturday and forced organizers to cancel Friday's headline act, country music singer Sawyer Brown.

Mosner said Labor Day weekend is usually the busiest so the weekend rain was particularly bad for business.

"Usually, if we have low numbers the three-day weekend will make it up," he said. While he doubted the fair would lose money this year, he expects it to barely break even.

Even without this weekend's rain, organizers of the state fair have been concerned by poor attendance in recent years.

One reason for the drop, Mosner said, is that schools are starting earlier, before Labor Day.

That meant many children couldn't attend the first day of the fair's popular livestock show, where juniors show off their prized farm animals.

The show begins on the first day of the fair, which falls on a Friday so students have often returned to school already and miss that day.

To remedy the problem, organizers may move the livestock show to Labor Day weekend next year so students may attend. "We haven't decide yet, but we are seriously considering it," Mosner said.

Blue skies and warm weather drew large crowds to the fair yesterday, but Mosner doubted it would be enough to counter the effect of Ernesto's weekend deluge.

"We were down 90,000 due to the rain," he said. "I don't think we'll make that up."

chris.emery@baltsun.com

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