Delaware State Fair attendance tops 300,000

Elena Wise of Townsend enjoyed a sunny day at the Delaware State Fair as she exercised Molly one morning. Fair officials on Thursday attributed good weather, a mix of entertainment and traditional agricultural roots to increasing attendance 10 percent over 2014. (Delaware State News photo by Dave Chambers)

Elena Wise of Townsend enjoyed a sunny day at the Delaware State Fair as she exercised Molly one morning. Fair officials on Thursday attributed good weather, a mix of entertainment and traditional agricultural roots to increasing attendance 10 percent over 2014. (Delaware State News photo by Dave Chambers)

HARRINGTON — Call the 10 days in late July fair weather.

The combination of cooperating weather, a mix of new entertainment offerings and traditional agriculture favorites helped the 2015 Delaware State Fair attendance to hit more than 300,000, according to fair officials Thursday.

In addition to recording its second best 10-day attendance with more than 311,000 fairgoers, visitors increased 10 percent from last year. The fair opened July 23 and closed Saturday.

“We had a fantastic fair this year and by most measurements, the best fair in recent memory,” said General Manager Bill DiMondi. “It’s great when plans come together accompanied by a pretty healthy dose of fair-friendly weather not marked by extremes in heat or dangerous storms.”

He credited temperatures and dry skies for the fair’s success.

“… Exhibits were up, the carnival set an all-time record, commercial space was fully occupied by happy vendors …”

Mr. DiMondi also praised the entertainment format in the M&T Bank Grandstand, including the new Craft Beer Festival at The Delaware State Fair which featured the music of Grand Funk Railroad and 60 craft beer varieties from over 20 breweries.

Other entertainment acts included pop star Meghan Trainor, contemporary Christian recording artist Casting Crowns, and Josh Turner.

A sold-out Demolition Derby helped to deliver a second strong Grandstand performance even with the cancellation of the Little Big Town concert due to health issues within the country group.

On the carnival side, The Wade Shows provided 56 rides and attractions with a record carnival gross exceeding over $1.1 million, which was up 6 percent compared to 2014.

Officials also pointed to the fair’s balance of grounds entertainment and agriculturally minded entertainment and exhibits. FFA officials helped to develop a new agricultural exhibit during the first five days of fair at the FFA Agricultural Education Center and the John Curtis Sr. Barnyard. Both areas brought both animal interaction and FFA programming to fairgoers.

Other popular events included the Antique Machinery Showcase. The animal Birthing Center continued to prove popular with families as they witnessed the birth of nine calves during the last four days of fair.

Assistant General Manager Danny Aguilar said the fair is committed to offering great entertainment for the price of admission while creating new ways to communicate the various entertainment offerings and schedules throughout the 10 days of the fair.

“The return of the fair’s mobile app allowed us to reach over 14,000 fairgoers and highlight weather alerts, contests, livestock information and daily activities,” he said. “Our social media channels, like Facebook and Twitter were hard at work keeping fans up to date with fair information and contests.”

Mr. Aguilar also praised the new Walgreen’s in-store pre-fair promotion, which offered discounted gate and ride wristbands.

Some 75 Walgreens in Delaware and Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore participated.

Attractions this year included the Butterfly Encounter, Movin’ with the Blue Hens, Kid Davie and Scott’s Crazy Comedy Magic Show. Circus Hollywood, racing pigs, petting zoos, exotic animals and hypnotist Catherine Hickland.

“In all, over the 10 days of fair, patrons were treated to over 825 hours of programmed entertainment which was provided at no additional cost beyond gate admission, not to mention all of the livestock competition and judging including the annual Livestock Extravaganza” said Mr. Aguilar.

Competitive and non-competitive exhibits remained a major attraction. The Junior Livestock Auction experienced another strong year as more than $200,000 was raised and distributed to youth exhibitors after selling their animals.

The fair played host to a record 57 corporate sponsors this year. New sponsors were Army, Marines, Click Heat, Four Seasons Sunrooms, IG Burton, Jewelry with Charm, and Renewal by Andersen, other corporate sponsors included M&T Bank, Food Lion, Hertrich, Delaware Electric Cooperative, Delaware Lottery, Discover Bank, Grotto Pizza, among several others.

And, not to be overlooked was fairgoers’ contribution to the community, officials said. On the fourth annual Food Lion Hunger Relief Day more than 19,000 pounds of canned good goods were donated in return for free admission on July 27 to be distributed to Delaware’s needy.

The 2016 Delaware State Fair will run July 21 through July 30.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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