Attendance at the Top 50 fairs in the United States was up just over 1% in 2013 according to a recent survey conducted by carnivalwarehouse.com, the industry's leading news organization.
A total of 43,911,000 people were in attendance at the top U.S. fairs, up from 43,334,000 in 2012. "There were quite a few fairs with record years in 2013", said Ron Weber, carnivalwarehouse.com editor. "When the weather was good, people seemed to respond well and visit in large numbers", he added.
Some highlights from the Top 50 fairs including a record year for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, #2 on list, which attracted just over 2.5 million guests, putting it just under 100,000 people away from #1 Texas State Fair's estimated attendance of 2,598,215.
The "Big E", the Eastern States Exposition, also had a record year, up 8.5%, along with the Erie County Fair, up 12.4%, the Indian State Fair, up 14.6%, the Big Fresno Fair, up 11.1%, the Wilson County (TN) Fair, up 11.5 % and the Pensacola Interstate Fair, up 5.2%.
Other notable gains included the Maryland State Fair, up 36.5% and back on the Top 50 list at #48, the Topsfield Fair, up 22.1%, the Dutchess County Fair (NY), up 34.9% and also making a return to the Top 50 list, and the Kern County Fair, (CA), up 19.9%.
The Calgary Stampede had the largest drop, shedding 28.4% of its attendance in 2013, but that number was remarkable as the fairgrounds was underwater just two weeks before the fair started. Through the heroic efforts of fair management, volunteers and fair associates, they were able to open the event and stave off a disastrous cancellation. The event sold "Come Hell of High Water" Tshirts to support the Red Cross, helping local flood victims. The efforts helped raise more than 2 million dollars.
The Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, CA, also suffered a large attendance drop of 26.8%. Extreme heat during the summer and a BART transit strike both affected attendance numbers according to reports from the event. Despite the drop, the fair held on to the #49 position with 391,426 attendees, just ahead of #50 New Mexico State Fair, down 4.7% for 2013.
The top three positions held steady with #1 Texas Stat Fair holding off the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Minnesota State Fair holding firm at #3.
After the top three, there were many changes and jockeying for position among the rest of the Top 10 and the Erie County Fair, 15 last year, moved up to 11, just shy of making the Top 10 in 2013. The Jacksonville Fair and the Allentown Fair were the only events to drop from the Top 50, replaced by the Dutchess County Fair (NY) and the Maryland State Fair, both making a return to the Top 50 after a brief absence.
Another notable event in 2013 was the change in name, and attendance reporting policy, of the Washington State Fair in Puyallup. The fair changed it's name in 2013 to the Washington State Fair, the 113th edition of the event. The fair said it had represented the interests of agriculture throughout the state and the new name signified the event's broad reach.
In the end, 2013 was a solid year for North American Fairs, the extreme heat that has plagued the Midwest the past couple of years subsided for the most part and the East Coast was free from hurricanes and serious weather events in the fall. With the exception of the Calgary Stampede, the weather average to above average for most events.
On the carnival side, the top four carnivals playing North America's Top 50 fairs remained the same with North American Midway Entertainment leading the way with ten events and 8,947,285 in attendance from the Top 50 followed by Ray Cammack Shows with 6,497,846, Wade Shows with 3,136,465 and Butler Amusements drawing 2,184,416.
Strates Shows leapfrogged ahead of Belle City Amusements to gain the #5 spot. This change was due to the Jacksonville Fair, which Belle City Amusements plays, failing to reach the Top 50 this year.
Amusements of America, boosted by a record Wilson County Fair (TN) and a strong Ohio State Fair, jumped to #7 from #9 and Spectacular Attractions (Murphy Brothers) dropped to the #8 position, despite it's fair attendance totals rising this year.
The big mover in 2013 was Deggeller Attractions, moving to #9 from #13 in 2013. This move was based upon the addition of the Maryland State Fair to the Top 50 list, boosting the carnival's attendance to 1,444,180, just behind Spectacular Attractions.
Power's Great American dipped one to 10th. They traded the Allentown Fair for the Dutchess County Fair (NY) but the carnival's largest event, the North Carolina State Fair, had lower attendance in 2013.
Reithoffer Shows dropped one to #11 despite drawing more people in 2013, Talley Amusements dropped to #12 and Funtastic Shows held steady at #13 with the Washington State Fair.
The balance of the list held the same names with Crabtree Amusements at #14, West Coast Amusements at #15 and Fiesta Shows at #16 and Davis Enterprises rounding out the list at #17. The latter two carnivals traded places based on a very strong showing by the Topsfield Fair, Fiesta's lone Top 50 event.
Interestingly, the #2 spot with 7, 210,099, could have gone to the "Independent Midway" category. Independent midways are produced at the Texas State Fair, the Minnesota State Fair, the San Diego County Fair, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florida State Fair. They account for three of the Top 10 events in the country and 5 of the Top 50. Independent midways use attractions from multiple carnival suppliers instead of contracting with one company. The infrastructure; ticket boxes, generators, wire, tickets, etc and management of the midway is provided by the fair. The latest midway to go independent, the Rick Frenette-managed Wisconsin State Fair broke the 1,000,000 attendance mark for the first time in recent history.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE 2013 TOP 50 FAIRS & TOP CARNIVALS LIST
Ed Note: (An earlier printed version of our Top 50 list listed the wrong attendance number for the California State Fair, ranked as #27. The fair is actually #26 and the attendance number is corrected. Additionally, Deggeller Attractions was not credited with one of it's fairs and listed as #12 on the carnival list when the company's actually placement should be #9. Carnivalwarehouse.com regrets these errors, which have been corrected in our online version at carnivalwarehouse.com)