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The Maricopa County Fair Offered Attendees Two Weekends of New Attractions and Fun
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The Maricopa County Fair returned to the Arizona Exposition and State Fairgrounds April 5-14 promising to deliver “Even More in '24.”

Fair executive director Karen Searle has good news all around on the fair. “The carnival was up 14% - a new record, and that was from 2023 which was a new record, up 39% from 2022,” she enthuses. Admission numbers are not yet finalized but she attests to those numbers setting a new record as well.

All of this was despite poor weather on the fair's opening weekend. “Our opening weekend, we had rough weather. Temperatures dropped down into the 60s - that's cold for Phoenix-  with 28 mile per hour winds on Friday and 20 mph winds on Sunday,” Searles notes. “Plus, Phoenix hosted the NCAA Final Four our opening weekend.” That, she says, was an “Ouch. There were games on Friday and Saturday with finals on Monday with free concerts, literally blocks away from the fairgrounds, with the Jonas Brothers and other big names.”

But these blips aside, she says that “Our first venture into 2 weekends in over 25 years was a success.” The fair concluded with beautiful weather for its final days.

Admission this year was priced at $10 for ages 8 and over with those 7 and under admitted free.  Admission included a fair program and a raffle ticket. There were a variety of free and discount days, with admission free until 3 p.m. on Friday the 5th, as well as Thursday and Friday the 11th and 12th. Free admission was also available Thursday the 11th from 3-8 with three cans of non-perishable food items donated for the St. Mary's Food Bank. Seniors were allowed free entry all day on Friday the 12th.

Searle she was delighted with the new featured attraction at the fear, the Sea Lion Splash. “The cool thing is to see lions play in their pools - they have two giant swimming pools - all day long. So, whether you missed their show or saw their show, you still get to see them in action,” she relates. The sea lions performed twice per day.

Also new was the Globe of Death attraction, an exciting performance less ominous than it sounds. “It's the steel cage that the motorcycles go [around] at the same time. It's very fun, very exciting, kind of thrilling,” Searle describes it. Other key attractions were the crafts, artworks, and quilts on display in the Exhibit Building, a live Shark Encounter, the gravity defying antics of the Super Hero Bike Show, and an Agricultural Mechanics contest. All these attractions were free of charge.

The carnival, presented by Butler Amusements, was not a freebie, but ride wristbands were discounted to $33 if purchased before Friday, April 5th; they were $38 thereafter. Kids participating in the Read and Ride program could enjoy four rides free; There were 35 rides this year, including thrill rides Vertigo, Zipper, Turbo Speed, and Khaos. The Khaos is a KMG Pendulum ride, and a new attraction for Butler. Offering wild heights and super speed, the ride takes riders high in the air, creating a sensation of weightlessness as their feet swing free from the main boom. Butler representatives report that the ride “takes your breath away with its stirring spins and exhilarating heights.”

 The carnival also introduced a new layout this year, designed to enhance the overall flow and interest of the fairgrounds. Butler says the company was “very happy” with the event this year, and its increased attendance. The event was promoted on all of Butler's social media pages.

In the fairgrounds arena, there were the ever-popular Monster Truck shows and Demo Cross car events, both described as packed with stunts and thrills, with Demo Cross offering a mix of racing action and demolition derby style spectacle.

Other fairgrounds entertainment included Wildman Phil with his exotic reptiles and arachnoids, musical performances by local bands and dancers, juggling, magic acts, and the country music of George Johnson. There were also, of course, robust livestock exhibits.

“We're very proud that the Maricopa County Fair [has] the largest youth livestock show in our state…every species, we have pigs and cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, a little bit of everything,” Searle attests.

Livestock sales were extremely strong. “Our large livestock auction brought a new record - $1,950,000 and growing! In the small stock auction, we also set a new record of $105,200. The Ag Mechanics auction was also a record setter and up 27%,” she explains.

Of course, there were also plenty of fair food treats, from tacos to cotton candy, to jumbo hot dogs to mozzarella sticks wrapped in bacon, to Kettle Corn and funnel cakes. And all the food and beverage sales rose this year as well. “Beer Sales set a new record and our food gross was up 33%,” Searles reports.

Community support was clearly strong. “The Maricopa County Fair is a beloved annual event that brings the community together in celebration of the best our county has to offer. This year, …we were committed to delivering an even bigger and better fair experience for all our visitors,” Searle says.

"Our goal is to help families create lasting memories, and this year we've seen that in abundance," she stresses. “The success of our extended schedule and the record-setting auctions reflect the strong community spirit and the dedication of our participants and supporters." Searle describes the fair's success as not only celebrating the achievements of participants but also that of the role of agriculture and education in the region.

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