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Weather cited for downturn in fair crowds

Rainy weather dampened attendance at the Spokane County Interstate Fair this year.

“If it didn’t rain, it looked like it was going to rain, and that had a definite effect on fair attendance,” said Rich Hartzell, director of the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. “Compared to the last three years, we were down some, and compared to the last three years, this is the worst weather we’ve had.”

Despite a 14 percent decline in ticket sales compared with last year, fair revenue was up, thanks to a $2 increase in ticket price, he said. This year, adult admission was $10.

Hartzell said the increase allowed fair organizers to plan more attractions and bring in big-name artists. The year’s fair featured a rodeo, demolition derbies, monster truck shows, and five nights of concerts with performances by Clint Black, Bobby Vee, ABBA The Music, Collective Soul and Hinder.

“We are an enterprise fund, so we have to generate revenue to produce entertainment and attractions here at the fair,” he said. “This year, we focused on our grandstand entertainment and our ticket sales were up for that.”

The event went more smoothly this year than last, when a criminally insane patient from Eastern State Hospital escaped while on a group outing to the fair, he said.

“We didn’t have any other quirks in the whole operation,” he said. “We made a lot of changes and with everything going on, it went quite well.”

Next year, fair organizers hope to bring a wide variety of entertainment, including country, rock, contemporary and children’s performances.

Hartzell said ticket prices will not go up again next year.