ESCANABA - Preliminary figures are in for the 2012 U.P. State Fair, and organizers say this year was another success.
According to Vickie Micheau, executive director of the Delta Chamber of Commerce and member of the U.P. State Fair Management Team, numbers are still being tabulated for advanced weekly and daily ticket sales, but organizers expect this year will surpass last year's record-setting numbers by about 1 percent in attendance and carnival activity.
An estimated 61,500 people showed up for this year's fair - a number representing those who paid to enter the gates, but does not include vendors, sponsors, media, volunteers or employees. According to numbers from the Skerbeck Brothers, carnival income was also up by just more than 1 percent.
People line up at the gate outside the U.P. State Fair Aug. 15 as they wait for the special three-for-all pricing. Organizers estimate 1,734 fairgoers passed through the gate during the promotion. (Daily Press photo by Holly Richer)
"We are delighted that we experienced even this modest increase, especially when you consider that the 2011 fair week weather was about as perfect as it gets," said Micheau. "This year, Mother Nature didn't cooperate quite as well with rain on opening day, Thursday and Saturday. The good news is that we experienced a final rush on Sunday, which pushed us over last year's attendance levels."
Micheau also highlighted that many visitors participated in Wednesday's "Three for All" promotion of a reduced gate admission price and discounted ride arm bands for one hour on the third day of the fair - symbolizing the fair's third year of successful, independent operations. During that hour, 1,734 fairgoers passed through the gate. Because the promotion went so well, organizers plan to offer something similar at next year's fair.
Other areas that showed significant increases over last year's numbers and fiscal year budget projections included vendor, exhibitor, grandstand and sponsorship activity.
Exhibitor entries were up approximately 3.9 percent, and Micheau said fairgoers seemed to like the new configuration of the midway and Ruth Butler Building - which opened up exhibition areas to allow for better traffic flow and additional space to accommodate more vendors.
Livestock exhibitors also realized a 16 percent increase in the Junior Market Livestock Auction sales. More than $439,000 was raised and will be paid to the young exhibitors for their animals. Micheau said these funds go a long way in helping youth pay for college tuition or other future career opportunities.
Sales results for grand and reserve champions are:
Grand - Dayton Miron, Escanaba, 1,360 lbs. $5.50/lb.
Reserve - Mason Wallace, Bark River, 1,280 lbs. $4.50/lb.
Grand - Mitchell Miller, Pickford, 268 lbs. $4.50/lb.
Reserve - Tyler Melchiori, Marquette, 248 lbs. $4.25/lb.
Grand - Patrick Keck, Gaylord, 144 lbs. $7.75/lb.
Reserve - Taylor Mitchell, Pickford, 138 lbs. $4/lb.
Grand - Joey Starzynski, Wallace, 95 lbs. $20/lb.
Reserve - Jace Moker, Wallace, 98 lbs. $10/lb.
The grandstand events were also a hit this year.
"The grandstand offered nightly entertainment and the popularity of the music acts and wheeled events contributed to higher attendance numbers during the fair's seven-day run," Micheau said. "The grandstands were never below 80 percent capacity with Gold Circle Seating selling out for both the Eli Young and Thompson Square acts."
Overall sponsorship income rose by 8.4 percent over budget, said Micheau.
"An area of significant sponsor support and one of the highlights of the week was the grand opening celebration of the Miracle of Life Educational Pavilion," she said.
Representatives from building sponsors GreenStone Farm Credit Services and the Farm Bureau of Michigan were on hand for the ribbon cutting and to welcome fairgoers to the new building.
"It was a great fair and the fine people of the Upper Peninsula should be proud to say that they are responsible for the continuance of the U.P. State Fair - Michigan's only state fair that has operated annually for the past 85 years," said Micheau.