New attractions and traditional favorites likely combined with favorable weather and an improved economy to boost attendance at this year's California State Fair, organizers said.
Daily attendance for the fair, which closed Sunday, was 41,003, a 6.5 percent increase from the 38,501 average daily attendance in 2012, according to preliminary figures released Monday.
It will take some time to analyze the results of this year's fair to determine what accounted for the increased turnout, said Rick Pickering, CEO of the California Exposition and State Fair.
"Some of it will be gut feeling as opposed to hard statistics," he said.
Preliminary statistics, however, show that 697,045 people attended this year's 17-day fair, compared with a total attendance of 693,034 for the 18-day 2012 fair.
This year's fair drew more than 80,000 people on Saturday, making it one of the top 10 days for attendance in the past 10 years, according to fair officials.
On July 23 and again on Sunday, the final day of the fair, attendance topped 70,000.
Kids received free admission on July 23 and carnival rides were $1, making it a big day for families, Pickering said. Concerts by Zendaya on Saturday and Randy Houser on Sunday also drew large, young audiences.
Sunday's Gran Jaripeo y Baile, a Hispanic rodeo and horse show, also helped boost closing day attendance.
"We had several days of stroller gridlock, with parents and grandparents pushing children in strollers," Pickering said.
The fair was not without its problems. A power outage shut down the monorail July 17, and firefighters removed 38 stranded passengers using a ladder truck and lifts with platforms.
The incident made national news, but no one was injured, noted Pickering.
A large grass fire along the American River Parkway on Thursday evening, which some media outlets reported was near Cal Expo, may have discouraged people from attending although the fire did not affect fair operations, Pickering said.
Although an animal rights group filed suit against the State Fair and the University of California Board of Regents over the confinement of pregnant and nursing pigs in the Livestock Nursery, Pickering said about 1,000 people an hour visited the exhibit on Saturday.
This year's fair emphasized technology in its exhibits and its promotions.
Fairgoers were encouraged to submit their photos of the fair via social media, Pickering said, and new photos were used every few days to "refresh" the State Fair's advertisements.
"People want to see people," he said.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.