The Washington Town and Country Fair opened strong Wednesday, but then had a soggy Thursday with rain showers most of the day.
The skies finally cleared late Thursday afternoon and the crowds picked up as the rides opened and country music singer Easton Corbin took to the Main Stage.
“For Wednesday, it looks like we’re up about 20 percent across the board — that’s gates and concessions,” Fair Chairman Paul Brune told The Missourian early Friday morning from the fairgrounds.
“I don’t have any numbers for Thursday yet, but obviously we’ll be down due to the rain,” he said. “But, I think if the weather is good, we can make up any of those losses this weekend with the entertainment and motor sports lineup we have scheduled.”
Brune said the Fair dodged the rain bullet Wednesday night, when a light shower fell that had officials briefly considering moving the queen contest indoors.
“We were watching a big cell that looked like it was going to hit us, but then it split and missed the fairgrounds — we got lucky,” he said. “Opening ceremonies and the queen contest all went off well, and then Matthew West performed and he was fantastic.”
West, a Christian rock singer, was a change from the Fair’s standard country and old-time rock, but he was well received, the chairman said.
“We probably had about 3,500 people at the concert — a lot of church groups and youth groups,” Brune said. “People loved him. We’ve had nothing but positive comments and I think it’s something we’ll try again next year on opening night.”
Bull riding also drew a good crowd Wednesday in the motor sports arena, the chairman said.
Overall for Wednesday, Brune estimates about 10,000 people were on the grounds throughout the day.
Thursday was a different story, he said, with steady rain showers hitting about 6 a.m. and continuing until about 3:30 p.m.
“We were open and there were people out here for the livestock shows and children’s contests, but it was slow,” Brune said. “The rides finally opened about 4:30 and then stayed open without any breaks.”
After the rain stopped, Brune said there was some ground maintenance work to do, mainly roping off the grassy areas to keep people on the walkways, and the parking lots which were messy, he said. Wood chips, provided by the city, were quickly put down on all of the lots, he noted.
The Fair Board also opened up two more shuttle lots, at the Elks Hall and Knights of Columbus, to encourage more people to park away from the grounds. Brune said the shuttle buses were busy all night.
On the Main Stage Thursday night, country music singer Easton Corbin did not disappoint, he said, estimating about 5,000 to 6,000 turned out for that show.
“I think it would have been much higher, but the all-day rain likely kept people away, especially from the St. Louis area, which also had a lot of rain,” Brune said. “But it was a fantastic concert and the band was great to work with. The weather also cooperated.”
Brune said after the concert, band members heard the music under the Entertainment Tent and asked if they could join in the fun.
“The band went on down to the Entertainment Tent, and the crowd was so excited to see them there,” he said. “They played under the tent for about 45 minutes and the crowd there just kept getting bigger. It was really fun.”
Brune said the motor sports stands were “packed” Thursday night for the Monster Trucks and motorcycle stunts.
Looking ahead to the weekend, Brune said he expects big crowds for both the concerts and motor sports.
“The weather looks good too — the rain is supposed to move out so I think all of those people who held off on coming out to the fairgrounds Wednesday or Thursday will be out in force,” he said.
The Main Stage lineup includes Southern rock band 3 Doors Down Friday evening; country music star Trace Adkins Saturday night; and “up and coming” country music singer David Nail Sunday night, closing out the Fair.
“Friday is our only rock night and we have the tractor pull so it’s going to be big,” Brune said. “Saturday will be our biggest night with Trace Adkins and I think David Nail also will bring a crowd.”
UTV racing returns for a second year on Saturday which should fill the stands, he added, as will motocross racing on Sunday.
“We’re excited and looking forward to it all,” Brune said.
“The grounds will be in fantastic shape and the weather looks great, so we hope everyone will come out.”