Almost a half million people attended the 2014 Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, Colorado this year. The fair was held from August 22 through September 1. The attendance numbers were about 22,000 above last year, said Chris Wiseman, the ten-year veteran general manager of the fair that brings food, fun and farm animals to the area not far from Colorado Springs.
Last year, the fair brought 469,000 people to the fairgrounds. This year, 498,000 people came through during the eleven days of the event. That's about a five percent increase in attendance, said Wiseman, but revenues were up in all areas by about six percent, he said. Only revenues from parking - which cost $7 - was slightly down because vehicles had to be moved to accommodate some vendors.
Those attendance numbers are quite an i
ncrease over the 2,000 people who attended the first fair held in 1869. That's when the people were attracted to the Pueblo area for a horse exhibition and the Colorado State Fair was born. Colorado became a state in 1876 and the state fair was already going strong. The fair is still calling Pueblo home. It's only been cancelled once during its entire history. In 1917, there was no fair held during World War I. The fairgrounds were used as a training facility during that time for the Army National Guard.
Since then, the annual fair has developed into the largest summer event in the state.
"This year, everything went very well," said Wiseman. "The weather was good. We had one night when there was a little drizzle. It got down to about 50 degrees a few nights, a little chilly, but otherwise nice. We had a great eleven-day run."
The entertainment this year couldn't have been better, he said. Country and western singer Brantley Gilbert had an extremely popular performance, selling out. Gilbert is originally from Jefferson, Georgia. His latest release is the album "Just As I Am."
Tony Orlando, that blast from the past, was also a real hit, according to Wiseman.
"He really put on quite a show," Wiseman said. "I don't think most people were expecting it. Everybody thought he was great."
Orlando recorded "Tie a Yellow Ribbon "Round the Old Oak Tree" in 1973. He's celebrating his 30th anniversary of that recording. It has since become his anthem, used for homecomings, reunion and renewal. Orlando was born and raised in New York City, His career started when he was just 16 with "Halfway to Paradise" and "Bless You." He later became one of the youngest vice-presidents for CBS Records. He had a weekly television variety show which ran for four seasons from 1974-1976.
Today, Orlando is a popular headliner in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Reno, Biloxi and Laughlin and has been a recipient of three American Music Awards and a People's Choice Award. Orlando was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990. This winter, he has a special production for the Christmas season entitled "Santa and Me."
On the midway, Crabtree Amusements of Staples, Texas took over. The company brought 52 rides, said Wiseman.
"The carnival was up by six percent this year," said Wiseman. "People were really riding the rides."
Crabtree Amusements, Inc. is a family-owned and managed company, founded in 1978 by Patrick Crabtree. Other family members are now involved. Safety is a top priority for the company, according to the website. The company also provides an all token midway. Token machines are located throughout the midways, and all food, rides and games accept only tokens. The token machines operate from open to close and are monitored by an attendant during operating hours.
The clean, modern midway paired well with all of the other entertainment events.
The professional ram rodeo with Clay Walker was held on Friday, August 22, and was very well attended, Wiseman said. Walker appeared once the rodeo was over. Chris Young appeared with the rodeo the following day. And on Saturday, the freestyle bullfights were featured as a part of the rodeo. Monster trucks were a big part of the entertainment on Friday and Saturday, and the demolition derby was held on August 30.
Some fairgoers temporarily confused the Colorado State Fair with the Denver State Fair, said Wiseman. They were expecting more information about medical marijuana, which recently was made legal in Denver. But the fair officials met and agreed not to have an expanded booth on the medical use of marijuana at the Colorado State Fair, Wiseman said.
"We had only one small informational booth with some brochures," he said. "We planned it that way. That was our policy."
The fair is owned by the state of Colorado, and it is a division of the Colorado Department of Agricultural. About seven percent of the fair's funding is provided by the city of Pueblo and the county, according to Wiseman. Admission this year was $10 for adults and $5 for children, but, if you were careful and kept an eye on the specials, you could have gotten in for as little as $1.00, he said.
A mega ride pass could be purchased for $90, for example. It included free gate admission and an all-you-can-ride carnival pass good for all 11 days of the fair. Every day, members of the military and first responders received a $2 discount on gate admission. Those same fairgoers paid only $5 on weekdays and $8 on weekends. On Thursday, August 21, a local radio station offered a sneak peek night when the fair was first starting. The offer included a $15 all-you-can-ride band the night before the actual fair opened. Those attending sneak peek night had to purchase a ride band to get into the fairgrounds.
Colorado State University got in on the act on Friday, August 22, and Friday, August 29. The offer was mailed to students in local school districts and included a $15 discounted ride band. Saturday, August 23, was band day at the Colorado State Fair. All marching band members in uniform were admitted for free at the gate and later performed on stage for the audience. Wiseman said you could hear the music all over the fairgrounds.
On Sunday, August 24, military personnel and emergency responders, with proof of affiliation, were allowed to buy rodeo tickets for $7 - a $5 savings. The savings was offered by local energy company Black Hills Energy. Customers of the company were offered a $2 admissions savings if they brought along a copy of their bill.
Senior citizens over the age of 60 - were admitted free on Wednesday, August 27.
Wiseman said that one of the most successful events at the fair was the Junior Livestock Sale, and event that raised $482,000 to be distributed among the winners, all members of local 4H and Future Farmers of America Clubs.
"We were up by $20,000 over last year," he said. "For most of the kids, the money they get from selling their animals will go toward college, but we heard one kid talking about he was going to start a hog operation with his money."
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Junior Livestock sale. Over the past 34 years, the Colorado State Fair Junior Livestock Sale has raised over $8,250,000 for the youth involved in 4H and FFA.
"Colorado's 4H and FFA youth work tirelessly throughout the year to earn a spot in this show and the Colorado State Fair appreciates their dedication to the agricultural community," said Wiseman.