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

Spokane County fair attendance down by nearly half

Ollie the Eurasian Eagle Owl clings to his handler Jalen Medina as he is admired by a crowd of fair-goers at the Spokane County Interstate Fair on Tuesday, Sep 14, 2021, in Spokane, Wash. Ollie and Medina came to the fair with an exhibit from The Newport Discovery Zoo in Newport, Ore. The zoo also brought a sloth.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Attendance at the Spokane County Interstate Fair fell by nearly 50% this year.

According to Erin Gurtel, the fair’s director, 112,347 people bought tickets in 2021. That’s a 46% decrease compared to 2019, when an all-time high of 206,615 people bought tickets.

During the first three days of the fair – from the first Friday through that Sunday – attendance was down 36%.

The fair typically sees a surge in visitors during the last three days of the closing weekend. Gurtel did not respond to requests for comment by press time, but based on the final attendance figures, that surge doesn’t appear to have happened.

On Saturday, Spokane received nearly a half-inch of rain, which was the most precipitation the city had measured since January. It’s possible many chose to stay home rather than get rained on while going on rides and eating fair food.

Even if it weren’t for the rain, achieving normal attendance at this year’s fair was always going to be a challenge.

The delta variant of COVID-19 has led to record-breaking numbers of hospitalizations, overwhelming the region’s health care system.

Organizers of many large outdoor events, such as Hoopfest, Valleyfest and Pig Out in the Park, canceled because of concerns related to the delta variant and its impact on hospitals.

The fair carried on, but it’s possible a significant number of would-be fairgoers stayed home rather than risk catching, or spreading, the delta variant, something fair officials speculated before numbers came in.