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Colorado State Fair Brings Big Crowds
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Running from August 25 to September 4th, over half a million people attended the 11-day Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, now in its 151st year. This strong turnout was despite some fairly major weather difficulties.  On the fair's first Friday night, it didn't just rain, it poured, bringing some three inches of rain to the fairgrounds. Later in the week, temps climbed to above the 100-degree mark. Still, according to general manager Scott Stoller, the crowds came out.

He noted that the strong attendance was due to “our concert lineup, our motor-sports, our demolition derby, monster truck and our rodeos.”

In fact, concerts, rodeos, and both the Demolition Derby and Monster Truck exhibitions were close to sold out. Among the fair's musical concert offerings, a wide range of genres were represented from Lady A's country sounds to the rock of Pat Benetar, the hip-hop of Lil Jon, and the Latin sounds of Los Tigres del Norte. Also on hand was the comedy of Gabriel Iglesias. Pricing for Lady A ranged from $50 to $60 for general admission, with pit seats $70 each. Lil Jon tickets were priced at $30-$40 for GA seating, $50 for the pit seating. Pat Benetar tickets were available only through a lottery process. Los Tigres del Norte, who performed on the Fair's Fiesta Day Labor Day weekend, priced GA tickets at $50. Ticketed shows increased by 33% in revenue compared to last year, with Los Tigres Del Norte the largest earner, bringing in close to $400,000 in ticket sales.

On August 25-28th, the fair hosted the PRCA Rodeo, with concerts following the event the 25th through 27th. And on the 30th, the fair presented the Mountain States Ranch Rodeo, followed by a concert from Ned LeDoux, both free to fairgoers. More excitement took place with the Celebracion de Los Charros on Fiesta Day, a free event that was followed by the ticketed musical event from Los Tigres Del Norte.

Other popular events were free daily with fair admission, including the Paul Bunyan lumberjack show, the Canine Stars dog stunt show, and hypnotist Richard Barker. There were guided livestock tours, a Cajun cooking show with comedy from Chef Landry, and the strolling musical sideshow of Washboard Willy, replete with thimbles on his gloves and a rhythm board. There were also free concerts from Eagles Tribute Band The Long Run,  Stevie Nicks Tribute Band Stand Back, and Firefall, among others. A free splash pad cooled attendees during hot days, a fun alternative to the drenching rain on the fair's first weekend.

Stoller says the year was successful overall, that “good programming and improvements” overcame the high temperatures and early rainstorms. He added that “The weather was definitely not on our side,” but despite that, the fair's attendance, numbers were massive.

Just how large were they? Almost 510,000 people attended, with numbers not yet finalized. This year's attendance was approximately 10% higher than last year's.

Last year, 461,104 attended the event. 2023's numbers are coming close to matching that of the fair's 2011 iteration, which had the highest attendance to date of 515,995 attendees. Fair tickets were priced at $15 for adults, $7 for ages 5-12, with kids 4 and under admitted free. There were a variety of discounted and promotional days during the fair's run as well.

Along with strong attendance, this year the junior livestock sale brought in over $470,350, with the grand champion market steer selling for $50,000. A record number of arts and craft exhibits were brought in and displayed this year, a goal for fair officials advocating for greater community involvement.

Food revenue also rose, by about 9%, Stoller related. Corn dogs were the biggest seller, but other popular eats included the fair's renowned giant turkey legs, corn on the cob, funnel cakes, and a variety of more exotic options.

These included tasty entrees from food trucks competing for the Governor's Plate Award. The winners of this prize included Stoke Pizza's chorizo, elote, and green chile pizza, and Papa Mario's Grilled Cheese. Other competitors served up everything from apple pie with aged white cheddar and Pueblo green chili, and a plant-based French Dip sandwich.

Speaking of food, there were plenty of award-winning pies, pickles, and jams on display as part of the fair's pantry competition for home chefs. The Slopper Eating Championship pitted contestant appetites against consumption of the Slopper, a dish that originated in Pueblo, a messy concoction of hamburger patties covered in green chili and onions placed on a bun.

The one attendance down note was the carnival from Crabtree Amusements. Revenue dropped by approximately 5% from last year's $2,096,440, due primarily to the opening weekend weather.  All that rain kept rides from operating. Crabtree is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and was established in 1978, this year offering more than 50 rides at the Colorado State Fair.

Among the attractions were the bumper cars, the Kamikaze, the Ferris Wheel, Zipper, and Scrambler. The carnival also offered a variety of kiddie rides, a Haunted Mansion, and the Fireball thrill ride.

Advance purchase for a carnival wristband or carnival card with digital credits offered significant savings, with an unlimited ride wristband priced at $32 through August 24th, and $40 thereafter. Purchases on site could be made at a Magic Money kiosk in the carnival area.

A Carnival Megapass for all days was priced at $160 through August 24, $200 thereafter. Individual digital credits were $1 each.

This year, the fairgrounds offered some improvements which are part of a 20-year master plan of grounds' updates, according to Stoller.
Attendees saw a new entrance and plaza on the fairground's west side.  By next year, permanent lighting and electrical service will be offered.
Coming up: renovations of the 4-H auditorium and exhibit hall, a full makeover of the Colorado Building that houses the fair's agricultural displays presently, and new heating and cooling at the Palace of Agriculture. Looking farther ahead, Stoller says a capital campaign is underway for a pavilion to replace the existing sheep, goat, and swine spaces.
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