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Plenty to see and do at the 2013 Kentucky State Fair

9/13/2013

By Linda McNatt

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Kentucky State Fair officials might be calling 2013 the Year of the Duck.  The fair celebrated the first landing of Duck Dynasty at the 109-year-old fair.

The popular reality TV program on A&E was one of the most popular entertainment segments of the fair, rounding off the 11 days of food, rides, fun, exhibitions and contests, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 25.

"We had five name concerts, but Duck Dynasty had to be one of the most popular," said Amanda Storment, vice president of communications. "I think everybody really had a lot of fun."

The audience members at the show paid $38 and $48 for a conversation with the Robertsons, a Louisiana bayou family living the American dream while operating a thriving family business.

Willie, Korie, Si and Kay Robertson talked directly to audience members and talked about their roles in the family duck and deer hunting equipment business. The Robertson family operates West Monroe, Louisiana-based companies Duck Commander and Buck Commander.

And Duke Dynasty certainly wasn't the only success at the fair that ran Aug. 15 through Aug. 25.

More than 615,000 visitors took in the fair at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville this year. That number is up slightly from last year.

The fair has welcomed over 6 million attendees over the past ten years, Storment said in a press release.

Both the first and last weekends of the fair saw spikes in attendance, including the last day, with the Robertsons entertaining. The last day attracted 9,000 more fairgoers than last year.

State Fair attendance last year dipped below 600,0000 for the first time since 2008. Fair officials attributed the decline primarily to several poorly attended concerts.  The 2012 fair drew 5999,854 paid admissions, down from 605,565 attendees in 2011. The record attendance was 684,356 in 1994.

Admission at the gate was $10 for adults, $6 for children 6-12 and $6 for senior citizens (55 plus). Children 2 and under entered for free.

The midway, with 47 rides, was handled by North American Midway Entertainment. The company has been with the Kentucky State Fair since 2007. Special admission prices were offered throughout the fair. On Sunday, Thrillway ride wristbands sold for only $15.

The midway reported slightly increased revenues.

Storment said near-perfect weather in Louisville the 11 days of the fair likely had a lot to do with its success.

"The weather was very comfortable," she said. "We had low humidity, with highs in the low 80s. There was very little rain. It was perfect."

Working with a $550,000 advertising budget, fair officials used social media, including Facebook, radio, newspapers and web radio to get the word out.

Word must have spread easily about Toby Keith, with special guest Kip Moore, on Saturday, Aug. 17. Country singer-songwriter Toby Keith has released 16 albums, two Christmas albums and three compilation albums. He's had more than 40 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Of those songs, 19 were number one hits, including "Beer for My Horses" and "As Good As I Once Was." He has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide.

Promoters describe Kip Moore's music as "gritty, earthy vocals." Tickets for that event were $56 and $45.

The updated Turf Concert Series in Cardinal Stadium drew capacity crowds in its first year with seats on the field. The outdoor stadium held more than 12,000 fans during the Casting Crowns concert on Monday, Aug. 19, and more than 15,000 fans on Friday, Aug. 23, during the Montgomery Gentry concert.

On Sunday, Aug. 25, ventriloquist-comedian Jeff Dunham entertained. Tickets to his show, "Disorderly Conduct," were $48 and $40. Jeff Dunham has appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show. He's been named "America's Favorite Comedian."

One of the biggest fair problems was solved this year with a new weekend parking plan. Free parking was offered at the neighboring Papa John's Cardinal Stadium with a free shuttle to the fairgrounds. It created options for fair-goers to park and lessened the weekend parking congestion, fair officials said.

The food was as good as it gets, Storment said. Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joes made their Kentucky State Fair debut.

"It was just what it sounds like," she said. "Sloppy Joe on Krispy Kreme donuts. It was very popular. Last year, we had Krispy Kreme burgers, and they went over well, too."                                             

A Kentucky Cookout Tent featuredg Kentucky's best homegrown food.  The list included Kentucky Sheep and Wool Producers, Kentucky Poultry Federation, Kentucky Aquaculture Association, Kentucky Country Ham Producers Association, Kentucky Cattlemen's Association, American Dairy Association of Kentucky, Kentucky Pork Producer's Association and Kentucky corn Growers Association.

The Kentucky State Fair 4-H Horse Show was held as a part of the fair in July. And the state fair miniature horse show was held Aug. 23 and 24. The World's Champion Horse Show was held Aug. 18 through 24. That event is held annually in conjunction with the State Fair. The show attracts people from all over the country when 2,000 horses compete for $1 million in awards.

Areas students who are members of 4-H and Future Farmers of America showed animals of every variety. There were rabbits, pigeons, poultry, hogs, cows, and there was a Kentucky Farm to School Junior Chef Competition.

Twenty-nne competitive entry departments at the fair brought in 46,000 entries, an increase of more than 2,000 from last year.

The Grand Champion ham brought a winning bid of $350,000! Brands Foundation placed the wining bid for the 13.3-pound ham, at about $23,000 a pound.

The final weekend of the fair brought a cheer and dance competition with teams from across the state competing in the 35th Coca-Cola Talent Classic.

And, of course, the Robertsons from Duck Dynasty on the final day.

They sold their famous handmade duck calls and decoys made from salvaged swamp wood. They also sold other duck hunting and deer hunting merchandise. The family-operated business is the basis of the A&E reality television show.

Willie Robertson, an executive producer of the show, has been around hunting for most of his life. Katie Robertson is Willie's wife. Si Robertson makes all of the reeds for the calls.

And Kay Robertson, known as "Miss Kay" is the matriarch of the family. She announced at the event that she's bringing out a cookbook, featuring some of her favorite recipes, like craw fish pie and sticky frog legs, in November.

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