By Alex Tiegen – TC Palm
STUART — The Martin County Fair ended Saturday with the cracking of cattle whips and the guitar and accordion melodies of Latin music, two icons of Martin County’s past culture and present diversity.
And as the 50th celebration of Martin County’s agricultural heritage wrapped up Saturday, organizers expressed satisfaction that more guests attended this year than last year. The president of the Martin County Fair Association estimated attendance was up 20 percent or more, despite the bad economy
“I believe people are thinking they should just go out and have a good time, regardless,” said Roy Rochester, president of the fair association, the nonprofit that raise money for and organizes the event.
Carl Begeman, treasurer of the fair association, said he was pleased at the high turnout, despite the bad economy.
“I was kind of worried myself, but it’s worked out in our benefit,” he said.
Begeman said he thinks patrons chose not to go to the large theme parks this year and used the money for the fair instead.
Jim Overton, executive director of the Martin County Fair, said he was pleased with attendance of the event, but the reason for the high turnout was elusive. Overton said about 3,000 guests paid for Thursday night alone, which featured a performance from Grammy nominee Jamey Johnson.
Overton believed the most plausible theory for the high attendance at the fair was the reduced ticket price from $10 to $5 for guests older than 3.
“People were looking for a deal, and we gave them a deal,” he said.
The fair’s income from this year totaled $347,028 as of Friday, close to $1,000 less than it made at the end of its 11-day run last year, Rochester said. The nonprofit budgeted about $371,000 for the fair this year.
Income for rides at the fair was up by about 15 percent this year, Rochester said. The fair association shares a business deal with Deggeller Attractions, which provides the rides, and receives a portion of the income.
On Saturday, fair goers took advantage of the sights and sounds of the spectacle one last time.
In the afternoon, Indiantown resident Cecil Pollock, 19, cracked a bullwhip near the fairground stage in a “pop-off” to break the tie for second place in the fair’s first whip-cracking contest. Pollock, who won third place, said he gave the contest his all.
“I just love popping my whip, man, and I got a free belt buckle,” he said.
Later that night, Grupo Rafaga, one of the groups featured in the fair’s “Latin Night,” played to a crowd that punctuated their music with the occasional whoop of celebration.
Bobbing his head to the music, Indiantown resident Mike Sanchez said he enjoyed the group and the entertainment the festival provided. He said the leisure time with his 2-year-old son is worth the cost of admission and other cost from his two days at the fair.