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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Fair draws largest Spokane crowds in 15 years

Nine-year-old Kyler Nielsen grins after winning a penguin toy at the Spokane County Interstate Fair. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane County Interstate Fair was a gate-busting success this year, with ticket sales exceeding more than 200,000 for the first time in six years.

This year, there were 205,997 tickets sold over the 10-day event, with 40,980 tickets purchased on the last Saturday of the fair – a 15-year high, said Rich Hartzell, director of the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.

“We haven’t done that well in a single day since 2003,” he said.

Hartzell said increased attendance at the fair this year is a combination of factors.

“Obviously, we had great weather this year,” he said. “I think that’s obviously a key factor. Also, the economy is better than it has been in the past.”

Hartzell said the fair board brought in new entertainment this year, including free attractions such as the Family Fun Stage and the Seal Lion Encounter.

Grandstand entertainment was a big draw for fair attendees this year with headliner Jeff Foxworthy’s comedy show, the PRCA rodeo, Trentwood Service Club Demolition Derby and the tractor pull, said Hartzell.

And he is already looking into entertainment options for next year.

“We have a couple things we’re working on right now that will certainly delight a lot of people,” he said.

Hartzell added that next year, the fair board is looking at adding a free shuttle from an off-site location to the fairgrounds to alleviate parking issues. The fairgrounds in the past operated a shuttle, which took about 10 minutes to arrive at the fairgrounds from the pickup spot.

“We’re going to look at that again for next year. I think its time,” he said. “We want to continue to enhance the experience for people and fine tune different areas.”

The Trentwood Service Club Demolition Derby was completely sold out Saturday night, said Bob Thompson, spokesman for the club.

The nonprofit group, which has held the demolition derby for more than 38 years, donates proceeds from the derby to food banks and the Union Gospel Mission.

“When I looked up from the grandstand area, I couldn’t find a vacant seat in general admission,” Thompson said. “It was just packed. There were no seats available. Sunday’s demolition derby had three-fourths of what we had Saturday. We put on a good show for people and they sure go crazy for it.”

VFW Post 51 Commander Sandy Judge said the organization’s food booth was constantly busy, especially for breakfast.

“From 7 to 8, it was hit and miss. But after 8, it was a constant flow all morning long,” he said. “I had to turn people away, so I could turn around and get set up for the lunches. We went through a lot of food.”

Judge, who has worked at the food booth every year for two decades, said there weren’t as many people out at the fair the last couple of years due to the weather and smoke from forest fires, but this year was definitely different.

“There was a lot more people out (at the fair) than there has been in a long time,” he said. “It was a good fair, I think.”