You could say those of us who work in the State Fair Press Office are obsessed with attendance. Every morning during the fair, we eagerly await word of the previous day’s crowd. We’re interested in this information for various reasons: 1) we know the news media will be asking for it, and 2) our boss, Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler, talks every year about wanting a million people to visit the fair, and we want to see how close — or far — we are to that milestone.
But the real reason we want these numbers is because, every night before we leave the fair, each member of the press office staff guesses that day’s attendance. Whoever comes closest without going over gets bragging rights. (BTW, over the years I’ve discovered that estimating crowd sizes is not my forte.)
I suppose you could talk at length about the factors that affect attendance, but the bottom line really can be summed up in one word: weather. It is the single greatest determinant of State Fair attendance. On nice, sunny October days, people come to the fair. On dreary, rainy October days, they don’t. It’s that simple.
In 2007, the State Fair had mostly dry weather and set a record for overall attendance, 858,611. In 1997, it rained five out of the 10 days — including both weekends — and attendance was 634,140, the lowest mark of the past 22 years.
If you’re curious about how State Fair attendance has fared since the mid-1980s, click here.