State Fair

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MOLINE, Ill. – With one well-worn, battered blue suitcase, James Kopel of Moline spent the past 11 years attending every state fair in the United States.

By car and airplane, he figures he traveled about 80,000 miles — about half by air — and spent up to $40,000 to attend the official state fair in 41 states and the unofficial, but main event, in 11 others.

Wearing his John Deere cap and walking shoes, and carrying a map of the fairgrounds, the affable, retired Black Hawk College professor traversed the fairgrounds, sampling the food and viewing the livestock shows, 4-H exhibits and commercial tents at each one.

To say Kopel is an expert on state fairs is an understatement. He created a state fair evaluation form on his laptop computer, rating each state fair on 90 variables, including quality and affordability of food, cleanliness and accessibility of fairgrounds and exhibits, courteous office staff, variety of entertainment and educational experience.

Kopel collected volumes of data and memorabilia along the way, and hopes to write a book on his findings to guide others who love state fairs. Throughout his travels, the Moline School Board member did not miss any of the school board’s twice-monthly meetings.

Kopel, 68, relishes the big question of why he made visiting state fairs in all 50 states his personal mission.

The answer is: because he could. He had the time and the inclination.

Growing up on a farm near Marshalltown, Iowa, Kopel raised and showed Chester White swine at his first Iowa state fair at age 10 in Des Moines. He’s loved state fairs ever since, even as they’ve grown more commercial.

There’s an old saying, he says, that you can take the kid off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the kid. “That’s me.”

He and his wife, Harlene, traveled to state fairs in their RV after retiring, and visited 10 before her death. “After she died, it became an obsession, partly to honor her,” he said.

Kopel visited the remaining 40 by airplane and rental car, with a global positioning system to guide him from airport to hotel to fairgrounds and back again.

His best experience was at the Fryeburg Fair in Maine, which drew exhibitors from Maine and New Hampshire. “It was one of the cutest state fairs you’ve ever seen.” he said.

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Published: October 31, 2008

TAMPA – The Florida State Fair Authority wants six more days of rides, fried food on a stick, roller derby, Elvis impersonators and livestock exhibits.

The authority voted this month to extend the annual fair from 12 to 18 days, starting in 2010, to finance $70 million in upgrades at the state fairgrounds in East Tampa.

Those improvements include building a 90,000-square-foot addition to the Expo Hall, gutting and rehabbing the existing 1976 hall, moving lakes, adding a waterfall and expanding the midway by at least 50 percent. Executive Director Chuck Pesano said the fair authority also wants to build a 200-unit RV park, add hotels and rework the entrance road from Interstate 4. But the fair, which receives no state or county subsidies, needs greater attendance to bring in enough revenue to finance the 15-year improvement plan.

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KOB.Com – SE New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico State Fair officials are blaming a 17.5 percent drop in attendance for a $620,300 decline in revenues from this year’s fair.

A preliminary report by Expo New Mexico chief financial officer Joe McIntyre shows that total revenue for the fair, which ran from Sept. 5-21 at Expo New Mexico, was more than $5.4 million – more than 10 percent below the previous year’s revenues.

Attendance for this year’s event was 602,504, down from 730,529 the previous year.  Fair officials have blamed tough economic times and high gasoline prices for the drop in attendance and revenues.

The report shows that carnival ride revenues fell by more than a quarter, while admission sales and art sales both fell by more than 5 percent.

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JournalNow.Com — Winston-Salmen

RALEIGH – Record attendance on the final day didn’t prevent the 2008 N.C. State Fair from falling below last year’s overall turnout.
Sunday’s attendance totaled 101,775, breaking the mark of 98,433 on the last day of the 2007 fair. But The News & Observer of Raleigh reports that this year’s total attendance of 765,067 was down about 11 percent below last year’s record of 858,611.
N.C. Department of Agriculture spokesman Brian Long said officials took note of the fact that advance sales for the fair were down. Long also said a combination of cool temperatures, a threat of rain and a struggling economy combined to keep attendance down.

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Original Link Here.
By Josh Shaffer

Attendance this year has slumped at the N.C. State Fair. Poor economy and cold weather are cited as key factors.

RALEIGH At noon Wednesday, only five people were riding the Ferris wheel. You could have Rollerbladed down the middle of the midway.

Not a soul lined up to whack a mole, and the vendor selling tickets to see the world’s smallest woman was dozing in his chair.

It doesn’t take the seasoned eye of a craft judge to determine that things are a mite slow at the N.C. State Fair this year.

N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler cites cold weather as the culprit. Vendors and fairgoers put the blame squarely on a slumping economy. Longtime vendors say business is down this year between 20 percent and 50 percent. And visitors arrive with smaller wads of bills.

“I brought $50, and we usually spend a couple hundred,” said Raquel Martin, a Raleigh mother of three who was at the fairgrounds Wednesday. “My teenagers both have jobs, so they’re spending their own money.”

Through Tuesday, 376,564 people had passed through the fair’s gates so far this year. That’s almost 10,000 fewer than the same period last year – and this year’s figure includes an extra half day the fair was open last Thursday. (Wednesday’s figures weren’t available at press time.)

At the fair’s outset Thursday, Troxler aimed for 1 million visitors this year – a goal that appears out of reach.

The fair did set a record for Tuesday attendance this year with 71,199. And organizers are hoping for a surge today, when admission is free for those who donate four cans of food to fight hunger.

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