This year’s Puyallup Fair drew more than 1.1 million people over its 17 days, besting last year’s total crowd count thanks to two strong weekends at the gate.
In general, weekday attendance was down compared with the 2011 fair. But the middle weekend and Sunday’s closing day drew much bigger crowds.
Fair officials released attendance figures late Sunday night, providing the first public glimpse of this year’s overall and day-to-day numbers. The fair used to release crowd counts daily throughout the fair but changed its practice this year, saying it’s consistent with how other large fairs report their attendance.
Another change is on the way for 2013: The event will be called the Washington State Fair.
News of the impending name change has drawn a mixed reaction, with some saying it fits and others saying they’ll still think of it as the Puyallup Fair.
For Sue Roesler of Lynnwood, “it will always be the Puyallup, whether they call it the Western Washington (Fair) or the state fair or whatever.” Roesler, 54, came to the fair on closing day to peruse the gadgets and quilts.
Fair officials say the new name will better reflect the event’s size and scope. And they still plan to use the tagline “Do the Puyallup.”
The fair is one of the largest fairs in the country. This year’s total attendance was 1,117,323 people, compared with 1,059,182 in 2011.
A stretch of good weather – sunny skies greeted fairgoers most days – likely contributed to the year-to-year increase, said fair spokeswoman Karen LaFlamme.
There also were new exhibits and three sold-out concerts, she said.
“It just kind of shows there was variety in what we were offering this year, in addition to our regular fair traditions, that captured people’s attention and inspired people to come,” LaFlamme said.
Two new exhibits proved popular.
The free Rainforest Adventure, which featured creatures including toucans and snapping turtles, drew 143,831 people, LaFlamme said.
And Our Body: The Universe Within, an exhibit featuring preserved human bodies and body parts, attracted more than 32,000 visitors. It cost $7 on top of fair admission.
The single biggest day for fair attendance was the final Saturday, when 113,917 people poured through the gates. The biggest year-to-year gain was this past Sunday, when 102,696 people attended, up 36,745 over closing day 2011.
The biggest year-to-year drop was Sept. 18, the second Tuesday of the fair, which drew 12,833 fewer people than the corresponding day in 2011.
The fairgrounds were relatively quiet Monday as workers broke down booths, folded up signs and boxes, and packed away wares.
Vendors generally reported solid sales; more than one said weekdays were slow but the pace picked up on weekends.
Mindy Delplanche of Portland, who was packing up her Nicko Accessories booth, said she met her sales goal. She declined to say what that was. But, “I felt like the energy was awesome. Everybody was happy to be here, having a good time,” she said.
In the restaurant building by the Red Gate, Jerry Russell, who helped run Aronica Pizza, noted the fair didn’t have concerts on Tuesdays this year, which likely contributed to slower sales at his location those days. Many people often stop in for dinner before shows. But he said the weekends were “so massive.”firstname.lastname@example.org 253-552-7058 blog.thenewstribune.com/street