The Washington Town & Country Fair is off to a “fantastic” start and weather has a lot to do with it, says Chairman Brian Gildehaus.
The Fair opened Wednesday morning and runs through Sunday evening at the city fairgrounds.
“With the pleasant weather we’ve had for the opening, the crowds have been huge,” Gildehaus told The Missourian Friday morning.
“Attendance Wednesday was one of the largest in recent years,” he noted. “It’s great to see that all of the events have been so well-attended.”
Temps are expected to be a little warmer for the weekend, but with no rain in the forecast, Gildehaus and his co-chair, Jason Unnerstall, expect large crowds Friday, Saturday and Sunday fueled by big-name entertainment and lots of action in the motor sports arena.
The chairmen said receipts are up about 20 percent overall for Wednesday and Thursday sales should be comparable to last year, if not better.
Advance tickets sales also are up over last year, estimated at about $400,000 — which includes the $150,330 in tickets sold by the queen contestants.
Gildehaus expects concession sales to be very strong for both Wednesday and Thursday.
“Fairgoers are coming out earlier and staying,” said Unnerstall, noting on Thursday the gates did not run out of the wristbands that allow people to get back into the grounds. “The weather was so great no one was leaving. They stuck around the whole day.”
The Main Stage entertainment kicked off Wednesday night with contemporary Christian music singer Josh Wilson following the queen contest.
“It was probably one of the bigger crowds we’ve had for our Wednesday entertainment. Josh Wilson put on a great show — he is a skilled musician and fans were thrilled,” said Gildehaus.
“The queen contest was another awesome event and the contestants were great,” he added.
On Thursday night, country music singer Walker Hayes took the stage, but not before spending the afternoon on the midway with his wife and six children.
Gildehaus said Hayes’ unique brand of country pop music was very entertaining.
Many of those who came out to the concert stuck around at the end to get an autograph, added Unnerstall, with some waiting for up to an hour to meet the singer.
Across the grounds from the Main Stage, the grandstands in the motor sports arena were packed both Wednesday and Thursday for the bull riding events, the chairmen said.
If the weather holds, Fair officials expect big crowds this weekend with three bands featured both Friday and Saturday night, along with the traditional tractor pulls in the motor sports arena and the livestock auction Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve got a big lineup all the way through and we’re excited to see how it all plays out,” said Gildehaus. “I think Saturday night could be pretty special with Jake Owen, Chris Janson and Jordan Davis on the Main Stage.”
The so-called Red Dirt triple feature Friday night with Chris Knight, Jason Boland and The Stragglers, and Whiskey Myers also should be a crowd pleaser, the chairman said.
On Sunday night, closing out the Fair, will be the legendary Sawyer Brown band, and Fair officials expect a big turnout.
Also on Sunday will be the People’s Choice Brewfest and Wing-Ding, which has grown in attendance every year.
Camel rides, animal feedings and Agri-Land will continue through the weekend and Gildehaus said all have been big hits with fairgoers.
The chairman’s event, Canines in the Clouds dog stunt show, has been another popular stop for guests as well, he said, with three shows daily.
On Sunday, stadium motocross returns, Gildehaus said, which always draws a crowd.