Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

The Wave Swinger swings over part of the big crowds that pushed into the California State Fair this year, a comeback after previous fall-off of attendance at the annual celebration of the state’s bounty and gifts.

Social media, soccer boost crowds at California State Fair

Published: Monday, Jul. 28, 2014 - 8:18 pm

This year’s California State Fair, which came to a close Sunday, saw its largest crowds in six years.

More than 750,000 guests visited the 17-day State Fair, topping last year’s total of 697,045 by 8 percent, according to fair officials.

At 556,440, the number of paying visitors rose 11 percent from 2013, State Fair Media Director Lara Popyack said.

The total number of attendees includes vendors, volunteers and fair participants who did not have to pay for admission, according to Jennifer Castleberry, director of marketing.

Contributing to this were several special events at Cal Expo that required separate tickets but allowed attendees to enter the fair.

The Sacramento Mile, Whiskey Festival and Sacramento Republic FC soccer games at Bonney Field drew in additional fairgoers who were not included in the paid attendance total. It is difficult to tell how many of the people who attended these events also attended the fair, but officials counted a portion of them in the overall attendance figures, Popyack said.

This was the first year that the State Fair and soccer games coexisted, and the new 8,000-seat Bonney Field sold out all five games that were played during the fair, Popyack said. Fair attendance numbers include about 29,400 of those who attended the soccer games.

“We are always looking for new opportunities to showcase the achievements of the people of California through competition and entertainment,” Castleberry said. “The soccer games at Bonney Field certainly achieved that goal.”

The busiest days this year were three weekend days and the second Tuesday of the fair, the last of which was “Kids Day” with $1 carnival rides and free admission for children 12 and younger. Each of these days saw more than 70,000 visitors, which the State Fair has not seen on four separate days in more than 10 years.

“I think it is very much our expanded programming and entertainment this year,” Castleberry said. “We also receive a lot of excitement from social media. We’ve seen a lot of positive posts that have gone viral.”

A shift in the State Fair’s media campaign, including the “Best of California” theme and an increase in advance ticket sales, contributed to the attendance increase, she said.

Call The Bee’s Juniper Rose, (916) 321-1164.

Read more articles by Juniper Rose

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