intense warm weather affects Iowa State Fair attendance

Associated Press

DES MOINES &#8212 A hot muggy week was blamed for a drop in attendance at the Iowa State Fair this year, but preliminary figures showed the event still attracted more than a million visits, officials said Monday.

The sticky weather led attendance to drop by 9,853 when compared to 2006.

Preliminary figures show 1,003,210 people attended the 11-day fair this year, which began Aug. 9 and concluded Sunday, said fair spokeswoman Lori Chappell. Last year’s attendance was 1,013,063.

Fair attendance first surpassed a million in 2002 and has remained above that level since. It peaked in 2004 when 1,053,978 people attended.

Attendance was lower this year than 2006 for five of the 11 days, which were among the hottest days of the week.

Tuesday’s high peaked at 93 degrees, according to National Weather Service statistics. The average relative humidity was 70 percent. Attendance that day was down 3,566 from last year’s 90,201 figure.

The first Saturday of the fair saw a 10,000 drop in attendance from last year as the temperature reached 92 degrees.

Temperatures surpassed the 90s on five days during the fair. The average daily humidity frequently ranged from 70 percent to 80 percent, increasing the sweat factor for many fairgoers.

Temperatures moderating to the lower 80s by Thursday and Friday helped boost attendance numbers, Chappell said.

Thursday saw 9,577 more people than last year and Friday drew 17,332 more people than a year ago.

“We really picked up a lot of attendance on those days that last year weren’t as strong. Those worked very much in our favor,” she said. “Fairgoers were probably just waiting out the heat and humidity and saw a little break in the weather and came out in full force.”

She said the highest grandstand concert attendance also occurred Thursday night when Casting Crowns, an Atlanta Christian rock group performed to 8,816 people.

One of the biggest fairgrounds attractions this year was the new Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center, which featured cows, sows and ewes giving birth. Fairgoers watched 60 baby pigs, 10 calves, 160 chicks and a lamb enter the world, Chappell said.

The new center was an opportunity for the fair to return to its roots, she said.

“The fair was founded on the mission of ag education and that’s never changed,” Chappell said. “Now our ag education is more urban and suburban as rural and farm populations have migrated into the cities and this was an opportunity for those people that may not have had a rural or farm connection to actually see it.”

Fair officials estimate that the fair induces about $60 million worth of spending on travel, hotels and motels, restaurants and shopping in the state.

Last year, the Iowa State Fair was listed along with events like the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby and the Daytona 500 in “Discover America’s Top 200 Events in the Nation.” In addition to being named in the New York Times travel book “1000 Places To See Before You Die,” the fair is included in the newly published “1000 Places To See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before You Die.”