The Oregon State Fair saw revenue gains this year despite a slight decrease in attendance. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)
It was a good year for the Oregon State Fair. The event, which hits Salem for more than a week at the end of August, saw gains in several areas.
Revenues increased by more than 10%, up from $6.2 million last year, according to spokesman Dan Cox.
Despite the making more money, Cox said there was a 3.8% drop in attendance which was attributed to two weekdays with temperatures in the 90s. Cox said the weather is the one thing fair organizers can’t control and the very thing they live and die by.
“By comparison last year pretty much every day of the fair was in the low to mid 70s,” he said. “Two years before we had temperatures in the 90s and even 100s and it really hurt us.”
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Every year the fair looks for new ways to engage and excite people, Cox said.
This year, there were four new events at the pavilion including a professional team rodeo, Mexican bull riding, a monster truck competition and a demolition derby.
The 5,000-seat Pavilion was a full house for three of the four events.
“Because we had good response for all those pavilion events, all those events will be on the table for 2020,” Cox said.
Advance concert ticket sales saw an increase from 13,516 in 2018 to 19,467 in 2019. Performers included REO Speedwagon, Steve Miller Band, The Beach Boys and 3 Doors Down.
Cox attributes the ticket sales to a larger booking budget and tickets going on sale a month earlier than last year.
“There’s a lot that’s encouraging,” he said. “There’s a constant pursuit of quality and innovation. You’re always trying to do a better job and have more success in more ways. Some of them are experiments. Some work and some don’t. This year a lot of them worked.”
Cox said the creative living department saw a 31% increase in entries, bringing the number of those entering contests like pie baking and quilting to about 4,000.
In the Gerry Frank Chocolate Layer Cake Contest there were 81 entrants, double the number that signed up in 2018.
“I think it obviously reflects more public engagement with the fair,” Cox said.
Cox calls himself a fair traditionalist – his parents got engaged on the Ferris wheel -- and said his favorite part of the fair is the goats.
“I love watching the engagement between people and animals,” he said.
He described looking down the main concourse of the fairgrounds.
“You just see nothing but colors and motion and people,” he said. “Those are the things that for me make the Oregon State Fair a classic American state fair.”
Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250 or [email protected]