HARRISONBURG — The Rockingham County Fair didn’t quite reach 100,000 attendees this year, as hoped, but it did shatter its previous attendance record.
With 91,595 attendees, the fair attracted nearly 2,800 more through the gates than in 2013, making it the fourth straight year a new record has been set at the annual weeklong event. Last year’s mark of 88,835 easily eclipsed the previous year’s then record of 81,891, the first year fair attendance broke 80,000.
According to fair records, the previous record had been set in 2011 with 78,099 visitors.
The fair has started a “Plow to 100 Thou” campaign to keep its growth trend going. Keep that in mind next year, because if 2015 attendance reaches 100,000, there will be a free admission day during the 2016 fair.
“Overall, we are having a very good year, after getting off to actually a slow start on Monday and also Tuesday” said Jeff Ishee, fair manager, on Saturday before the final tallies were in.
The new record comes in spite of a rainy Monday, which led to a drop of more than 3,000 attendees from Monday attendance in 2013, while Tuesday’s attendance topped last year’s by more than 2,000.
But on Friday, the largest single-day attendance in the fair’s 65-year history was recorded. With 18,176 people, it beat the previous single-day attendance record set in 2012 of 18,104, and exceeded Friday of fair week last year by more than 2,400 people.
That daily record, however, lasted a mere day as 20,041 people went through the gates Saturday.
“That was just an amazing amount of people to come out and have a good time and show their support to the Rockingham County Fair,” Ishee said.
This year’s fair saw strong attendance at performances, and program committee members will soon start planning for next year. It’s too early to tell who might be back and who won’t be, but Ishee said he’s already heard many people say they want to see Old Crow Medicine Show, which has two Harrisonburg natives, back for a third year.
New food items included fried pickles and fried cinnamon bun pieces topped with bacon and drizzled with icing. Both seem to have been highly successful for the Ruritan Club, Ishee said.
All around, he only had praises to sing of this year’s fair success. The new poultry industry showcase building was such a hit, fair staff had to go out and buy a new guestbook because all the pages had been filled.
“Lot of people seem to appreciate the history and, basically, the story being told of the local poultry industry,” Ishee said. “That went very well. It exceeded my expectations.”
The only problems Ishee was aware of during this year’s fair week were two medical emergencies. Two people had heart attacks or cardiac arrests on Monday and Friday, but volunteers and emergency medical staff assisted them within minutes and both seem to be recovering well.
He could not say enough about the hundreds of volunteers so vital to making the fair a success.
“We have hundreds of volunteers that are out here from literally dawn until midnight … picking up trash, cleaning the streets,” Ishee said. “And these people are taking a week off their vacation time. … I just want to express my appreciation for everything they do to support this fair.”
Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org