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Fair sees increase in attendance over 2013

By Katie Demeria

Attendance at the Shenandoah County Fair increased by 8 percent this year, despite wet weather during the first weekend.

General Manager Tom Eshelman said drizzles in Woodstock and thunderstorms throughout other areas of the valley reduced attendance during the first few days by about 10 percent.

"But then Mother Nature cooperated starting Monday, and other than some hot daytime hours, we really had an incredible week Monday through Saturday," Eshelman said.

The total attendance was around 36,000 individuals, an increase from last year's 33,000 visitors. Eshelman added that the number can be inflated, as well, to include 4-H participants who get in for free.

Ultimately, more than 40,000 probably visited the fair, he said.

"Other than the first three days, when we were hindered by occasional drizzles and powerful storms around the area, we were able to grow, and that says a lot about the fair and the customers and the local community," Eshelman said.

Veterans' Tribute Day took place Thursday, and according to Eshelman it was extremely successful -- 500 people came out during the day.

"We saw almost a 25 percent increase in attendance," he said. "That was huge, we had about 100 more people come to Veteran's Day this year than they did last year."

Friday, though, was the fair's biggest night, when Nitty Gritty Dirt Band performed. Eshelman said they saw near record attendance, with over 6,000 visiting the fairgrounds.

The cool weather in the evening Friday helped that number, as well.

Many of those visiting the fair were from surrounding areas, according to Eshelman. The fair is now using an electronic ticket program that allows staff a better grasp of visitors' geographic locations.

Around 45 to 50 percent of those who attended the shows, which is what the electronic tickets register, were from Shenandoah County. But the rest were from surrounding localities.

"It's a pretty large chunk, and that's good for the economy of Shenandoah County," Eshelman said.

The fair changed some of the programs it had offered last year in an attempt to increase attendance. Last year, Eshelman said the county fair had difficulty with entertainment, and some money was lost.

Fair officials scaled entertainment programs back, not hosting a Sunday evening concert as they have in the past. A community day with local fire departments was held instead, and Eshelman said it was very successful.

"We had to take steps to correct things that happened last year to be more financially viable," he said.

All profits will go back toward improving the facilities, he said.

"We hope that [the fair is] a positive experience, we would love to see more people come out," he said. "In today's economy, especially, we just hope that people feel it was a good value, and we hope they appreciate coming to the fair."

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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