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Colorado State Fair: Attendance Up, Temps and Fun Level High
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The heat was on this year for the 150th Colorado State Fair, held in Pueblo, Colo., which had seen visitors diminish in the past few years. But this year, visitation was up by 21,904 for a total of 466,380 visitors despite temps in the 90s, according to fair general manager Scott Stoller.

Stoller credits the upswing in attendance for the eleven-day fair, which closed September 2nd, to a stronger concert line up, along with new promotions, including free admission days for children and seniors. 

General admission revenue increased by 31 percent over 2018; the fair's annual Fiesta Day recorded the highest attendance in years.

Stoller relates “In addition to excellent reception surrounding traditional fair favorites, new attractions such as our World Slopper Eating Championship, Tattoo As Art talk, Mayors Day and more” added to interest. What is a slopper-eating contest? Puebloans know it as a local treat: a cheeseburger covered in green chili. No utensils were provided for the consumption of this favorite. Most consumed: 28 and a quarter sloppers in 8 minutes. The contest, which featured Colorado beef and Pueblo green chilis, garnered nationwide news coverage, picked up by media affiliates across the country. The event on its own brought in 1,000 attendees. “That was a pleasant surprise. That's not a big number when you are close to a half-million people, but it was a lot of stuff like that which really helped,” Stoller explains. Other popular competitions ranged from cupcakes to beer.

Over the run of the fair, the livestock department tallied a total of 2,747 entries with 146 animals sold and the general entry/fine arts department received 3,555 entries from 936 exhibitors in categories that included fine arts, pantry, quilts, farm and garden, poetry and beer and wine. 

There were approximately 200 commercial vendors and 46 food vendors present who also contributed to the fair's coffers, with retail sales up 4% this year.

New attractions that drove the most interest, as the fair's GM reports, were the All-American High Dive Show featuring a flaming diver, hypnotist Richard Barker, comedian Farmer Phil, and the acrobatic SalidaCircus. The Brett Young and 38 Special concerts drew strong crowds, as did the demolition derby, Celebración de  Los Charros, and the aforementioned Slopper eating showdown. For these events, the fairgrounds' Bud Light Grandstand, Southwest Motors Events Center and Pueblo Bank and Trust Pavilion venues were all near capacity. 

Discount days were a boon for attendance. The most popular was “Twosday,” during which the fair offered $2 admission, $2 food items, $2 ranch rodeo tickets and $2 carnival rides on Tuesday, August 27.

“The big sub-note is that we overcame the heat,” fair General Manager Scott Stoller asserts. 

“Our concert lineup also had a bigger draw this year than it had last year. That diverse lineup really helped,” Stoller said.

The biggest concerts were: were 38 Special, which attracted about 7,000 people; Brett Young, who brought in 6,600 people; and Aaron Watson and the rodeo, which saw a whopping 13,000 people.

On Sunday's Fiesta Day Stoller reports that 66,630 people attended – over 11,000 more attendees that last year.

The Great American High Dive Show, which features pro divers covered in flames diving from an 80-foot platform, was also a big draw, along with a Wild West Show, and the constantly-added-on sculpture work of Farm Jill Balloon Sculpting. Horse events, an annual attraction, also drew a solid crowd this year.

Another crowd-draw was the Colorado State Fair's 5K Stampede Run. The event began 4 years ago and has seen a 20% increase in attendance each year with over 150 runners competing this year. 

“We really like to have something for everyone…having a 5K run for folks brings more diversity…” Stoller says. Noting that the fair is always looking for things that are “outside the norm” and asking what will attract attendees. The race, which took place at 8 a.m. on Saturday, provided pre-registering runners with a free T-shirt as well as free admission to the fairgrounds on that day.

Stoller calls the gate sales very positive news for the fair.

Another part of the fair's success was the carnival, operated by Crabtree Amusements Inc., a family-run carnival company since 1978. The Arctic Blast was among the most popular rides. Making carnival attendance easier this year as well, was Crabtree's use of Magic Money, an RFID wristband system that is both reusable and reloadable. The wristbands use electronic credits and replaced the use of Crabtree's traditional metal tokens in the carnival. The bands could be reloaded at kiosks, Magic Money booths or by downloading the app. The app was found especially useful by fairgoers according to carnival officials, as monitoring balance and reloading credits could be done from anywhere via phone.

Magic Money transactions reloads could be done with credit or cash; with unused credits saved for next year. Packages were available in $20, $40, or $60 increments for first-time purchases, and could be reloaded for any amount at no additional charge; initial purchase of the RFID card included a $2  fee.

Among the offered rides were the Thunder Bolt, Twister, Giant Wheel, Circus Train, Pirate Ship, Tilt A Whirl, Pole Position, Spinout, Orbiter, Spider, Scorcher, Vertigo, Hi Roller, Raven, Sky Trip, Haunted Mansion, Fire Ball, Crazy Dance, Starship, Cliff Hanger, Sky Fire, Power, Genesis, Tornado, Bumper Cars, Arctic Blast, Freak Out, Surf Shack, Drop Tower, Slide, Disco Fever, Raiders, Silver Steakdinos, Motorcycles, Mini Jet, Dragon Wagon, Jump Cycles, Holiday Train and Bears. Among the most popular were the Arctic Blast and the Giant Wheel. In kiddie rides, the Dragon Wagon and Holiday Train and Bears drew a lot of tots.

Fair food offerings included these popular new additions: the Giddy Piggy grilled cheese joint, Dole Whip, Popcorn Nation, Greek Grill, the rustic façade and tasty beverages at the Silver Spur Soda Company, and La Taqueria Mexican food, according to Mary Peck, the fair's director of communications.

Fair hours were Monday-Thursday: 12 p.m.-11 p.m.; Friday-Sunday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; and on Labor Day: 10 a.m.-11 p.m. The carnival kept slightly different hours, running from 2 p.m. to midnight M-TH, noon to midnight Friday, Saturday, and Labor Day, with the Family Fun Zone Rides opening when the fair opened and closing at 10 p.m. daily. 

Youth admission pricing was slightly lower this year, moving from $7 to $6; however adult pricing increased from $10 to $12. Children under four were admitted free. A fair Mega Pass was $125 and included both general admission and 11 days of unlimited rides; Unlimited Ride Wristbands were $35, and carnival ride individual tickets were $1.25.
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