By Vernon Robison
Moapa Valley Progress
The stormy weather forecast dealt another blow to Clark County Fair attendance this year. Though the weather never got as gloomy as was forecast, two days of dicey projections kept crowds down at the four day annual event.
The general gate was tallied at 61,274 visitiors this year, down about 6% from last year’s 62,819, according to Todd Robison, the Fair’s Executive Director. That wouldn’t be so bad until you remember that last year’s fair, filled with all kinds of violent weather, was the worst attendance year on record, Robison said.
The Fair had a strong start on Thursday with beautiful sunny weather notwithstanding an afternoon breeze. The event also ended with a bang on Sunday when the weather was a picture perfect spring day and the crowds came out, Robison said.
But Friday and Saturday the regional media was forecasting rain and high winds, and the crowds that usually come from out of town stayed home.
“The toughest part about this Fair is the decision-making time,” Robison said. “For people from out of town, we are an hour away. They have to think it out first and look at the forecast. If the forecast is bad, they usually make a decision not to come.”
Robison explained that southern Utah residents have traditionally been a large part of the Saturday fairgoing crowd.
“The Saturday weather was much worse up there than it was here,” Robison said. “I’m afraid that we lost most of them on Saturday. Even though, for the most part, Saturday wasn’t a bad weather day here.”
Though this year’s event set new records for low attendance, Robison said that the Fair is still on solid financial footing.
“We were pretty much prepared for it,” Robison said. “We had made some re-adjustments and changed some things that helped us plan for the worst. So while it was tough to have two bad weather days it wasn’t catastrophic. On the flip side if we had ended up with four great days, we would have been able to restore some of our contingency funding. But we came out okay and hopefully we’ll weather the storm.”
Despite the low attendance, this year’s Fair still offered attendees a great range of activities and entertainment, Robison said.
“Overall we felt good about it and we thought it was a great fair,” Robison said. “It was just disappointing that more people didn’t come and enjoy it because of the weather. That that is what it is. You can’t control the weather.”
Robison said that he heard positive comments about the fair entertainment acts. “The people that came loved the things that were there,” he said.
The Thursday evening concert featuring country band Restless Heart played to about half of the house, Robison said. But this was not surprising.
“It was a band that was really popular about 20 years ago,” Robison said. “So we knew that we might not get the younger crowd coming. It was more of a middle age crowd that turned out. But the people that came loved it. It was a good show.”
The Fair went with a different carnival company this year. The carnival from previous years reportedly ran into some financial troubles shortly before the fair so Robison said he made the decision to make a switch.
“We gave them more room to run in and they had quite a bit more equipment than we’ve had in previous years,” Robison said. “For the most part it was a clean operation.”
Robison said that he heard some complaints about the carnival’s strict adherence to lower height requirements for small children.
“They were pretty strict on that stuff,” Robison said. “They have won some high awards in their industry and have kept standards that have kept them at the top of the notch because of their strong safety record. All of that feeds into it.”