State Fair attendance tops 2016 numbers

DOVER — The 2017 Delaware State Fair drew about 288,000 visitors, an increase of 25,000 from the year before but still below 2015’s numbers.

The 98th iteration of the fair, which saw a kickoff concert on July 19 and opened fully the following day, ended Saturday.

After bringing in 311,000 visitors, second in the history of the fair, in 2015, the fair was impacted by sweltering heat last year. 2017 was better, officials announced Tuesday.

“This year’s opening was pretty tough weather-wise when we experienced mid to high 90s for the first four days of fair (heat indices were reported approaching 105 degrees on opening Thursday, July 20th),” State Fair General Manager Bill DiMondi said in a statement.

“Despite starting the 2017 fair in the midst of the third heat wave to strike the Del-Mar-Va peninsula this summer, the weather moderated substantially for the last seven days with daytime highs in the mid 80s and evening lows all the way down in the mid 60s. The return to cooler non-traditional fair weather brought tons of visitors some sporting sweaters at night, which is a rarity around these parts especially in July.”

Daniel Mitzel checks out the antique tractors at the Delaware Sate Fair on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The first few days of the fair saw some of the hottest temperatures of the year, but the weather cooled down by the end of last week, although rain disrupted some fairgoers Friday.

Country musicians Jon Pardi and Chris Lane opened the fair July 19 at the M&T Bank Grandstand concert lineup. Throughout the next 10 days, Darius Rucker, Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, Rascal Flatts, Crowder and Brantley Gilbert performed, with close to 50,000 attendees.

More than 3,100 goats, pigs, sheep, horses, ponies, rabbits and poultry, along with two giraffes and 12 camels, were also present at the fair.

“With last Friday’s near record 24-hour rainfall amount coupled with the huge animal population, we almost had our own version of Noah’s Ark going on here in Harrington,” Mr. DiMondi said.

The Junior Livestock Auction saw 138 animals sold for a total of almost $200,000, distributed to exhibitors who owned the top-placing junior market animals.

The Wade Shows featured 56 rides, while other entertainment included Manlove Auto Parts’ Demolition Derby, Monster Truck Meltdown and Jurassic Dinosaur Adventure area.

Richard McIntyre competes in the tractor pull at the Delaware Sate Fair on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

More than 4,000 people attended July 22’s craft beer festival, which featured a performance by Foghat and more than 25 beers.

“In all, over the ten days of fair, patrons were treated to over 1,133 hours of programmed entertainment which was provided at no additional cost beyond gate admission, not to mention all of the competition (competitive exhibits and livestock) and judging including the annual Livestock Extravaganza,” Assistant General Manager Danny Aguilar said in a statement.

The fair included a record 66 corporate sponsors.

The 99th Delaware State Fair in 2018 will begin July 19 and end July 28.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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