Despite the heat, the Washington Fair lived up to its theme as the best days of summer, according to Chairman Jay Nowak.
The 2011 Fair ended its five-day run Sunday night at the city fairgrounds.
“It was hot, but it was a lot of fun,” Nowak told The Missourian Monday afternoon from the fairgrounds as cleanup continued.
“Overall, we’re very, very pleased with how everything went — the concerts, motor sports, livestock auction, everything ran extremely well — and we had an incredible effort from our volunteers who went all out this year,” he said.
Nowak said Mother Nature was the one variable out of his control.
“You can never control the weather. We did have some short bands of good weather mixed with a decent amount of extreme heat which hurt our daytime crowds for sure and that had a trickle-down effect with our beverages and concession sales,” he said. “But it’s not about the numbers and even though we’re down I don’t want that to take away from what a great five days this board and all of our volunteers put on.
“It was just amazing to see everyone come together and it’s that volunteer spirit that separates Washington and Franklin County from other communities.”
On behalf of the Fair Board, Nowak said he thanks everyone in the community who attended and all of those who worked a gate, concession stand or event.
“We couldn’t do this every year without everyone’s help,” he said.
Nowak said preliminary receipts are down about 15 percent overall from last year.
“I think that’s partly due to the heat. I do think people waited to see what the weather might be before purchasing a ticket, but I also think the down economy hurt us too. People just don’t have discretionary spending they used to,” he said.
However for those who turned out, Nowak said no one left disappointed.
“The Main Stage shows were just phenomenal and we’ve heard nothing but positive comments about the new layout, as well as Victoria’s Circus and the Purina dog show,” he said. “The motor sports action as always was very exciting and all of the shows and games were well received.”
Nowak said the Fair opened to extreme heat Wednesday, but then rebounded on Thursday with cooler temperatures. However, the heat and humidity were back for the weekend with heat advisories posted for all three days, he said.
Rain showers Friday afternoon did temporarily cool the grounds, Nowak said, but the humidity crept back in Friday night.
“We had rain on and off Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and that definitely cut down on the crowd. People came out much later than normal,” he said.
The Collective Soul concert Friday evening had under 10,000 in attendance, Nowak said. The truck and tractor pulls packed the grandstands in the motor sports arena.
Saturday started and ended hot, although Sunday evening was pleasant after a storm went south of Washington bringing some relief, he said.
“We were very fortunate to have missed that storm. It was something we were watching very closely with the fire department and we were prepared if it hit,” Nowak said.
The extreme heat Saturday also kept daytime crowds down, he said, but people did turn out later for the Lifehouse concert.
“I would estimate we had about 10,000 people there,” Nowak said. “It was a wonderful show and we’ve had nothing but great comments about it. Many think it was one of the best concerts ever at the Fair.”
The Fair chair said the livestock auction Saturday afternoon was very successful and he thanked the community for again showing its support to the exhibitors.
The crowd was a little down for the micro sprint car races Saturday night, Nowak said, due most likely to the heat.
The extreme heat and humidity, and the threat of storms, also was blamed for Sunday’s lighter than usual attendance.
“I think the severe weather alerts kept some people away, but by Sunday night it was very nice on the grounds and Joe Nichols had a great turnout,” Nowak said. “We probably had about 8,500 people for that show and it was a fantastic one.”
The motocross races also drew a big crowd Sunday night. “This is always a Fair favorite. They did a great job,” Nowak said.
According to preliminary numbers, total receipts, including advance ticket sales, are estimated at $987,000, down from about $1.1 million last year.
However, Nowak said the numbers are still very preliminary and will likely change as all receipts are finalized.
This is the first time in nine years the Fair has not topped $1 million in gross receipts.
Advance ticket sales were down this year with $338,602 worth of season passes sold compared to $374,520 last year. Of that total, the Fair queen contestants sold approximately $272,486.
Here are the preliminary daily totals for the 2011 Fair as compared to last year:
Wednesday — $76,302, up about $7,602.
Thursday — $132,394, down about $15,106.
Friday — $179,169, a drop of about $67,831.
Saturday — $159,295, down about $34,705.
Sunday — $99,624, a drop of about $25,376.
Nowak noted that food and beverages sales were down which impacted overall receipts. Some of those figures are still being tallied, he said.
As cleanup continues on the fairgrounds, Nowak said the board is already turning its attention to next year’s Fair. A wrap-up meeting will be held next week and then planning will begin for 2012.
On Sunday night the Fair Board threw out T-shirts under the entertainment tent with next year’s theme — Making Memories. Dale Westhoff will serve as chairman next year. His co-chair will be selected this fall.