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Yuma County Fair reports 2% increase in attendance; midway up 2%

5/28/2014

By Linda McNatt

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The city of Yuma, Arizona has a reputation for its weather extremes. It's the driest, the sunniest and the least humid city in the contiguous United States.

The sun shines about 90 percent of days in Yuma, just east of California and north of Mexico. Yuma is the sunniest place on earth.

But on April 1, 2014, the winds blew into Yuma and blew across the 200 acres of grounds at the annual Yuma County Fair.

The winds continued to blow, with cotton candy wrappers sticking to everything and fair flyers plastering the fences, for the entire five days of the popular fair, until April 6. That's Yuma for you, said fair manager Eric Woffard, with a chuckle. You never know exactly what to expect.

"This was my sixth fair," he said, "and it was probably one of the smoothest as far as the way things went. We had fantastic teamwork inside and out. There was a great support system. We've got it dialed in now."

The blustery wind was merely an inconvenience, the fair manager said. The show went on.

Despite the winds, the fair saw a 2 percent increase in attendance. Danny Brown, of Brown's Amusements, also reported a 2 percent increase on the midway, said Woffard. But fair officials saw the largest increases in the livestock exhibits at the fair.

"We had 351 lots on exhibit," said Woffard. "The animals sold for $867,000. It all goes to the kids who showed the animals. Most of them will save the money for college expenses. It really shows a lot of community support."

The cattle exhibit was popular, and fair visitors flocked to the pigs, said Woffard. He couldn't explain the popularity of the goats.

"This was the first year we've had goats," he said. "Everybody thought they were the coolest animals. I couldn't believe the number of people who showed up."

Admission to the fair was $5 for adults and $3 for children. All of the entertainment was free with the cost of admission.

Gloriana,  an American country music group, was the lone nationally-known entertainment act, and they appeared on Friday, April 4.

"They were the headliners for the entertainment, and they were received really, really well," said Woffard.

Gloriana was founded in 2008 by brothers Mike and Tom Gossin. Rachel Reinert performs vocals with the brothers. The group won an Academy of Country Music Award in 2010 for the Top New Vocal Group. Gloriana has released Good Night, Can't Shake You, Wanna Take You Home, Wild at Heart, Lead Me On, and just this year, in 2014, Gloriana's most recent release is Best Night Ever.

 Another popular entertainment event was the demolition derby, according to the fair manager. Fair goers came out to see the derby and stayed until the last car went down, he said. The fairgrounds were packed that night. An estimated 8,000 people attended.

The fairgrounds are used all year around if they can be. The weather, especially the heat, often prevents that, said Woffard. About 160 of the 200 acres available are used. Woffard said that the fairgrounds are busy for an average of 200 days an year. An estimated 300,000 people each year participate in some event at the Yuma County Fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds are located in central Yuma. When people attend, they come from all directions, said Woffard. The fair started in 1953, when the entire fair was all in tents. In 1954 and 1955, it moved to its present central-Yuma location.

Temperatures every year have a big effect on fair attendance. Woffard said he's seen many years at the fair when it was in the 90s. This year, with all of the wind, it was in the 80s. It was pleasant, but it was difficult to keep everything in place with the strong winds.

Every year is a fiesta on the fairgrounds thanks to local non-profit organizations, said Woffard. The civic groups take care of the food. Eight non-profit food booths dominated the fairgrounds, and there wasn't much anybody could want to eat that wasn't available. The  Rotary, Jaycees, Elks, Knights of Columbus and American Legion all participate.

"The fair generates the revenue for these clubs for the rest of the year," said Woffard. "The Rotary is known for its sausage; the Elks for their chicken, the Jaycees for the beef tips. And then there are potatoes, Mexican food and stir frys. There's always a good choice of foods."

Nothing from the fair made the front page of local newspapers except the livestock shows, said Woffard, and he said he was happy with that. For next year, fair officials are going to be working on improving the infrastructure on the fairgrounds, and they are already working on planning the entertainment. Next year's fair is planned to be held from March 31 through April 5. About 160,000 people attended the 2014 Yuma County Fair.

The fair was advertised on all of the major radio and television stations, Woffard said. There were also advertising flyers distributed, and flyers went to the schools.

"Most of the kids were already coming to the fair, and they were admitted free if they were participating in the livestock exhibits," said Woffard. "Almost all of our students in Yuma County are members of 4H. It's really popular."

Woffard said he was really impressed with the way everything at the fair went , despite the weather and wind problems. He was especially impressed with the midway, he said. Brown's Amusements, of Mesa, Arizona, will be back again next year to entertain on the midway. The company is owned and operated by Sherry and Danny Brown. They grew up in the amusement business, and have spent a lot of time "learning from the best."

Brown's Amusements was awarded the prestigious Outdoor Amusements Business Association's circle of Excellence award in both 2007 and 2010. The award is based on the amusement company's ability to excel in the areas of safety, service, operations and administrative duties.


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