It may not be one for the record books, but the 2014 Washington Fair had a “very successful” run, according to Chairman Paul Brune.
“It was great fun — just fantastic,” Brune told The Missourian Monday afternoon while looking over preliminary receipts, which topped the $1 million mark again.
“Last year’s Fair set just about every record, so when you compare it to that, we are down, but compared to other Fairs we’re up,” he said. “The numbers are not final and will change some, but I think this year’s Fair will be among the Top 10 best, maybe even Top 5, so that’s great — we’re very pleased.”
Brune said the Fair got off to a strong start Wednesday with receipts up about 24 percent overall, but Thursday’s all-day rain showers definitely hurt.
“We were down nearly 50 percent on Thursday as compared to last year and that was all due to the weather,” he said. “Even when the rain cleared out, I think there were a lot of people who just didn’t want to mess with it and we took a hit across the board from gates to concessions.”
On Friday, the sun came out and the crowds picked up, Brune said.
“We were up about 5 percent,” he said. “We probably had about 15,000 people on the grounds and that was split between the 3 Doors Down concert and the tractor pull. Plus the weather was great.”
Brune said the Trace Adkins concert was a big hit Saturday night. He estimates the crowds at close to 16,000 on the grounds that night.
“Trace Adkins put on an incredible show and there were people of all ages out there, young and old,” he said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have as big of a crowd as we hoped in the motor sports for the UTV racing and entries were down too.”
Overall, Saturday receipts are down about 19 percent as compared to last year.
“Last year we had Lynyrd Skynyrd so we knew that would be hard to beat, but we’re really pleased with our Saturday numbers,” he said.
Brune said he’s not sure why the UTV entries were down and the Fair Board never knows the exact number until the day of the event. Keeping that event in the lineup for next year will have to be discussed, he added.
“We always try and mix things up in motor sports every few years, so this is something we’ll be looking at,” he said. The one constant, he said, is the Friday night tractor pull, which always draws a big crowd.
The Fair ended Sunday on a high note with receipts up over 25 percent.
“That’s probably the biggest jump we’ve ever seen on a Sunday. We had people on the grounds all day and there were always lines for the concessions,” he said. “The David Nail concert was awesome and the motor sports stands were packed for motocross.
“I would estimate we had about 10,000 people on the grounds Sunday and that’s huge for us,” he added.
Brune said there were four accidents during the motocross event with one participant having to be airlifted into St. Louis for care.
“It was a very unfortunate situation,” he said.
Preseason ticket sales are down about 13 percent from last year, Brune said. Sales are estimated at $293,435, compared to $338,099 in 2013. Of that total, the queen contestants sold $264,473.
Thirteen of the queen candidates were singled out for selling more than $7,500 worth of tickets.
Advance ticket sales are critical, the chairman said, because it’s the Fair’s “insurance” when storms like the one in 2012 closes the grounds.
Brune said there were some “technical” issues with ticket sales this year.
“We’re investigating those issues,” he said. “Every year we try to improve on the ticketing system.”
Here are the preliminary daily totals, which include gates, concessions and other income, for the 2014 Fair as compared to last year:
Wednesday — $113,162, up about $21,861.
Thursday — $97,097, down about $94,532.
Friday — $291,831, up about $13,311.
Saturday — $289,073, down about $67,107.
Sunday — $145,874, up about $29,556.
Brune said concessions were down overall as compared to last year due which he attributes to the rainout on Thursday.
Food sales were down just slightly from last year, about 3 percent, he said, and beverages were down about 12 percent.
However, he said, aside from Thursday, the food and drink stands were busy this year, day and night.
Although this year’s Fair may not be a record-breaker, Brune said it provided great fun for all ages.
“And that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
The children’s contests and events all ran smoothly and were well attended, he said, noting the Family Fun Center was packed all five days, even on Thursday.
“Agri-Land was a popular spot again and HeritageLand also went over well and will likely be back next year, bigger and better,” he said. “The midway also was always busy and children of all ages seemed to enjoy the rides.”
Brune said there were very few issues on the fairgrounds and weather likely played a role.
“Really for August, we had fantastic weather, other than Thursday,” he said. The crowds were well behaved and with temps in the mid- to high 80s, heat-related illnesses were not a factor.
“I think the weather helped with the concessions too,” he added. “People eat and drink more when it’s not so hot.”
On Monday, the Fair Board and volunteers were back on the grounds to clean up and tear down.
Brune said by that afternoon, the grounds were in “pretty good shape” and attention was already turning to next year’s Fair.
The theme for 2015 has been chosen — “Family Fun for Everyone,” said Wehmeyer, whose co-chair will be announced next month.
T-shirts with the new theme were thrown out before Sunday night’s concert to get people excited about coming back.
Brune said a wrap-up meeting will be held in two weeks to assess “everything” about this year’s Fair.
“We go over the pros and cons — what worked, what didn’t — and discuss what we can do to make the Fair even better,” he said.
The Fair Board will then begin meeting to start planning next year’s event.
Brune thanked his Fair Board, the Junior Fair Board, the many city departments that help each year, police, ambulance and fire, and the countless volunteers who are the backbone of the event.
“Our volunteers are absolutely incredible — we couldn’t do this year after year without them,” he said. “It’s why we live in Washington. It’s that volunteer spirit that makes this community so great.”