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Numbers remain stable for the County Fair
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The Stanislaus County Fair, attended by visitors from 14 countries and 46 states, was successful in the eyes of fair officials.

A total of 219,050 visitors went through the fair during its 10-day run which ended Sunday, Aug. 5.

An exhibit on reptiles, a newly expanded concert venue and new motorsport events were some of the attractions that drew them.

Despite pleasant summer temperatures, the numbers were slightly less than the 219,365 who attended in 2006.

"Percentage wise it's not an increase or a decrease," said Pennie Rorex, spokeswoman for the Fair. "We are delighted in the attendance for two years in a row when fair attendance statewide is decreasing."

The fair's attendance peaked with 226,509 visitors in 2002 - the year Lynard Skynard's show sold out 4,500 seats in two hours.

"That's unusual. That's the only act in my memory that has ever sold like that. So that's not the norm."

Rorex said when one looks at the high home foreclosure rate in Stanislaus County and high gas prices, attendance numbers were quite respectible. She said some fairs in the Valley have seen 10 and 12 percent decreases in attendance. She said the fair industry is attempting to study why there is less interest in fairs than there used to be.

"You have to measure your success of a fair not just on attendance. We had more animals entered in 4-H and FFA than last year. The number of participants in exhibits is vital. When you have a successful exhibit program then you've had a successful fair."

More than 26,500 individual entries - from apple pie to market beef to zinnias - were exhibited at this year's fair.

More than 500 animals were sold at the 43rd annual Junior Livestock Auction on Saturday, Aug. 4. Auction highlights include the sale of Justin Meyer's 4-H Reserve Grand Champion poultry meat pen (two chickens). The award-winning chickens sold for $275 per pound, for a total sale of $2,750 for the pair. The 1,250-pound Supreme Champion Market Steer, raised by Kyle Mendes from the Modesto High School FFA, sold for $8 per pound, garnering $10,000 for the his livestock project.

The safari theme apparently was a big hit. At times there was a line to get into the reptile exhibit inside the main fair building.

"That was very very attractive," said Rorex of the theme.

Outside the reptile exhibit was an 18-foot map of the U.S. where visitors could mark their own habitats. It became apparent that the continental U.S. was not big enough. Visitors from Austria, Bavaria, Canada, China, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Sweden and Wales were given special stickers to represent their nations. An estimated 5,000 marked the map, sponsored by the Turlock Visitors & Convention Bureau.

According to Rorex, the expanded Budweiser Variety Free Stage was a hit with performers and fair guests alike. For the first time at this fair, all concerts were included with the price of admission.

"LeAnn Rimes was one of the most sought-after concerts of the summer," shared Leo.

Leo called the fair a value-packed event, with 10 celebrity concerts included with admission.

The FoodMaxx Arena was filled with events during the fair's 10-day run, too. Capacity crowds filled the stands for the three most popular events - Destruction Derby I, Destruction Derby II and the Truck and Tractor Pulls.

The 2008 Stanislaus County Fair will open on Friday, July 25 for a 10-day run. Its theme will be "Fun in a Nutshell." The board is contemplating a public sampling of nuts like was offered in the cheese theme of years back.

Rorex said that the fair has approximately a $3 million operating budget, of which $150,000 comes from the proceeds of state horse racing revenue. The rest is derived from gate ticket receipts, sponsorships and building rentals throughout the year.

This year the fair paid a flat fee to the Ceres Lions Club to manage the parking lot, taking over where Denair Lions left off.

"They did an outstanding job for us," said Rorex. "They came to us with new ideas and worked very hard. When the lots became full they worked the road ... They had a great team of vounteers and we enjoyed working with them."