Mild weather, live horse racing and new attractions combined to produce the biggest crowds the California State Fair has seen in years, Cal Expo said Monday.
The fair, which ended Sunday, drew 579,338 paid attendees over its 17-day run, a 4.1 percent increase over 2014’s figure of 556,440. “The fair’s organizers and management are incredibly happy with turnout,” said fair spokeswoman Lara Popyack.
Only two days of the fair’s run had temperatures of more than 100 degrees – a big factor in the increased numbers, Popyack said. On average, 45,992 visited the fair each day, the highest figure since 2007.
Cal Expo officials have struggled for years to figure out the right formula to reinvigorate the State Fair, attendance of which dwindled for years after hitting a historic high in 2001. Last year, the fair also posted substantial attendance gains.
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Various new exhibits, competitions and events drew visitors. In particular, this year’s drone racing and extra virgin olive oil competitions brought in new demographics, said Popyack.
For the second year, people who bought tickets to Republic FC soccer games also received admission to the State Fair – an addition that helped boost attendance figures. This year was also the first one that the fair hosted three weeks of live horse racing. Horse racing drew nearly 14,000 people on the fair’s final weekend, Cal Expo said in a press release.
Food and beverage sales also broke records, bringing in $9.5 million, a 14 percent increase over 2014. Fair favorites included deep fried pastrami pizza from Cardinali’s Family Concessions, bacon-wrapped corn on the cob from Sacramento-based The Bacon Habit, and wine slushies from the Save Mart Supermarkets Wine Country. This year, 16,260 wine slushies were sold.
“What made us so successful this year was that we continued to pull from the best talent from the entire state,” said Popyack. “Whether it be a drone racer or grandma’s homemade strawberry jam, we honored where state fairs originated from.”
The State Fair’s final weekend was not without incident, however. In a release, Popyack said Cal Expo police are investigating incidents that occurred at the fair Sunday night. In one case, two men showed up at the Kaiser hospital near Cal Expo with injuries they said they had sustained in a fight at the fairground. Police also are investigating a reported stabbing, but have not identified any victims or perpetrators at this time.