Hot weather lowers Delaware State Fair attendance

The Junior Livestock Auction raised more than $187,000 which will be distributed to youth exhibitors who sold their prize livestock.  (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

The Junior Livestock Auction raised more than $187,000 which will be distributed to youth exhibitors who sold their prize livestock. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

HARRINGTON — July’s heat wave melted attendance at the 97th annual Delaware State Fair by 15 percent from 2015.

Some 262,587 people attended the fair over its 10-day stretch from July 21 through July 30, according to figures released Thursday by the Delaware State Fair.

Seven days saw a heat index of 100 degrees or more, according to the National Weather Service. The heat index temps peaked at 114 degrees on July 25.

Weather also was a factor on Governor’s Day on July 28 when violent thunderstorms roared over the fairgrounds.

The upside was the thunderstorms chased away the heat, setting the stage for the return of cooler temperatures on the final two days. July 29 and 30 drew close to record-setting crowds, according to Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager and director of sponsorship development.

Fair general manager Bill DiMondi said he couldn’t remember it being so hot for such an extended period of time.

“Perhaps our slogan should have been revised to say find your ‘slice of hot summer fun’ in order to be more accurate,” he said, referring to this year’s theme of “A Slice of Summer Fun.”

“With a fair or major outdoor event being held on the Del-Mar peninsula during the last 10 days of July, you expect extremes in weather. However, this year was clearly one for the records,” he said.

Many avoided the worst of the heat by attending the fair in the evenings.

“We were prepared for the heat,” Mr. DiMondi said.

Carnival provider The Wade Shows, food vendors and exhibit areas created shaded areas, he said.

“Cool zones with patron seating opportunities in many of the air-conditioned exhibit buildings were prepared and identified for use by overheated patrons looking to cool down and rehydrate.”

Overview

Mr. Aguilar cited the success of the M&T Bank Grandstand in bringing nationally recognized entertainment to the Delmarva Peninsula. M&T Bank has signed on for another five years as title sponsor of the grandstand, he said.

Among the grandstand highlights was the return of George Thorogood and the Destroyers with The Fabulous Thunderbirds to his home state on July 29.

It was his first time playing below the canal and during his encore, Mr. Thorogood said he would love to continue an annual tradition of playing at the fair.

On the carnival side, The Wade Shows provided 58 rides and attractions with several new and recently refurbished rides making their first appearance in Harrington. The carnival, however, was not immune to the effects of the hot temperatures: Its gross was down 16 percent compared to 2015.

The fair’s agricultural-oriented entertainment and exhibits remain popular. The Future Farmers of America continued with the John Curtis Sr. Memorial Barnyard during the first six days of the fair. Eleven calves were born in the Birthing Center and an Antique Machinery Showcase ran all day July 23.

“Throughout the 10 days of the 2016 fair, patrons were treated to almost 1,000 hours of programmed entertainment which was provided at no additional cost beyond gate admission. This also included all of the livestock competitions, the Annual Livestock Extravaganza as well as the Junior Livestock Auction,” Mr. Aquilar said.

The Junior Livestock Auction, which represents the finale of an exhibitor’s year of work and dedication, raised more than $187,000. That money will be distributed to youth exhibitors who sold their prize livestock.

As for other competitive and livestock exhibits, 37,000 exhibits were entered by 3,202 exhibitors. 2016 saw a slight increase in the number of animals exhibited at the fair with 3,251 animals calling the fairgrounds home for the last 10 days of July.

Corporate sponsors hit a record 64. New sponsors for 2016 included Ram Trucks, Sweet Serenity Chocolates, Hawaiian Moon, Oceane Beauty, Dole Packaged Foods, Ready Companies, Taylor & Messick, Office of Highway Safety, Hot Tubs, Inc., Kathy McGuiness, Delaware Beer & Wine Festival, Friends of John Carney, HealthSouth Rehab Facility of Middletown, Citizens for Pro Business Delaware and Fred Drake Automotive.

The fifth annual Food Lion Hunger Relief Day raised more than 13,000 pounds of non-perishable food items on July 25 which will be distributed to Delaware’s needy through the Food Bank of Delaware.

The fair also expanded its use of social media and mobile platforms to communicate with patrons, exhibitors, visitors and vendors. The fair’s mobile app allowed it to reach more than 4,000 fairgoers and highlight weather alerts, contests, livestock information and other daily happenings.

The 2017 Delaware State Fair will run from July 20 through July 29.

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

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