It was a “blast, a really big blast,” said Chairman Al Behr summing up the Washington Town and Country Fair which wrapped up Sunday night.
“It all comes down to weather, and we had five days of great weather,” Behr told The Missourian Monday afternoon while looking over preliminary receipts, which topped the $1 million mark.
This year’s theme, coined by the chairman, was “Summer’s Last Blast” and Behr said it was just that and more, adding he couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
Behr and his co-chair Paul Brune said temperatures never topped 90 degrees which brought crowds out and kept tempers down.
The Fair got off to a strong start Wednesday and Thursday with receipts up over 12 percent both days.
“And it kept getting better from there with receipts up 42 percent Friday and nearly 100 percent Saturday,” said Behr.
“But we didn’t have 100-degree weather or the storm like last year on Saturday night when REO Speedwagon was just three songs into their show and we had to shut everything down, taking a big hit,” he was quick to point out.
Behr said “big, big crowds” turned out Friday night for the return of REO Speedwagon, which played a three-song encore, as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd Saturday night, which put on an “amazing” show.
Paul Brune, Fair co-chair, estimates about 15,000 people were on the grounds Friday evening and close to 17,000 Saturday night.
“It was packed everywhere, the Main Stage, the rides, motor sports for the tractor pulls Friday and UTV racing Saturday,” Brune said. “And yet we really didn’t have any problems. It all went really well.”
Brune noted that Lynyrd Skynyrd band members were impressed with the concert stage and the crowd.
Sunday’s receipts were down about 12 percent, said Behr, citing a small turnout of 4,000 to 5,000 people for the Parmalee concert.
“Parmalee put on a great show, and they even stuck around for a meet and greet with fans,” Behr said.
Behr said preliminary numbers indicate gross receipts are up over 20 percent over last year with the Fair topping $1 million.
“The weather had a lot to do with it, but we’re absolutely happy with it,” he said, adding the numbers are not final and the profit won’t be known for some time.
According to preliminary reports, total receipts, including advance ticket sales, are estimated at $1,371,746, up about $234,048 from last year.
Behr said that total will likely rise somewhat because there are still few merchant outlets that have not yet turned in their numbers, as well as the Chamber office.
Although overall receipts are up, preseason tickets are down about 10 percent from last year which Behr said is likely due to the family four-pack and Groupon promotions the Fair offered.
“It’s a trade-off, but it helps bring people in and boost concessions, which were up considerably,” he said.
Preseason ticket sales for this year are estimated at $338,099, compared to $377,065 in 2012. Of that total, the queen contestants sold approximately $300,278 worth of advance season passes — a new record.
Advance ticket sales are critical, the chairman said, because it’s the Fair’s “insurance” when storms like the one last year close the grounds.
Here are the preliminary daily totals for the 2013 Fair as compared to last year:
Wednesday — $91,001, up about $9,903 from last year.
Thursday — $191,629, an increase of $20,673.
Friday — $278,520, a jump of $83,466.
Saturday — $356,180, up $175,898.
Sunday — $116,318, down about $16,925.
Behr said food sales were up about 20 percent over last year and beverages were up an “amazing” 65 percent, which all helped to boost the bottom line.
Last year was the first time in several years the Fair saw a rise in food and beverage sales. Behr said the weather helped to bring people out to the grounds earlier and stay later, which typically translates into more food and drink sales.
The run on food was so great, he said, that by Saturday additional supplies had to be purchased in St. Louis to make it through the weekend.
The 2013 Fair may go down in the record books for its gross receipts, but Behr said just as important, it was a lot of fun for all ages.
The Main Stage entertainment did not disappoint, he said, and people really seemed to enjoy the motor sports action.
The new midway company also was a big hit and will be back again next year, he added.
“Other than not having a Ferris wheel, which was already committed to another fair, I think the kids really liked the rides and the layout,” Behr said.
Several new events, such as the glass blowing demonstrations and spray paint artist, were crowd pleasers as well, he said.
Brune said the People’s Choice Brewfest, which was expanded this year, also had a strong turnout and will be back, bigger and better, next year.
The chairmen noted Agri-Land, SafetyLand and Family Fun Center were “always packed” all five days.
The annual livestock auction Saturday afternoon also was successful, they said.
Behr thanked all of the volunteers who manned the gates, directed traffic, worked in the concession stands or helped out at one of the many contests, as well as the many sponsors and the Fair Board who are all volunteers too.
“We absolutely couldn’t do it without the community support,” he said.
The Junior Fair Board, new this year, also did a good job, the chairman said. This group of 14- to 18-year-olds worked hard all five days, he said.
On Monday, the Fair Board and volunteers were back on the grounds to clean up and tear down.
Behr said by that afternoon, the grounds were in “pretty good shape” and attention was turning to next year’s Fair.
The theme for 2014 has already been chosen — “Meet Me at the Fair,” said Brune, whose co-chair will be announced this fall.
T-shirts with the new theme were thrown out before Sunday night’s concert to get people excited about coming back.
A wrap-up meeting was held Tuesday with city police, fire and ambulance to assess this year’s Fair and what can be improved on.
The Fair Board also will begin meeting to start planning next year’s event.