Star power boosts attendance at Rock County 4-H Fair

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Frank Schultz
Monday, July 29, 2013

 JANESVILLE—The Rock County 4-H Fair's attendance had not been stellar in recent years, but a couple of big stars helped it rebound in a big way this week.

With a total of 10, 959 visitors on Sunday, the fair reported a total attendance of 102,732, far above last year's total of 77,466.

“It's exciting,” said Bonnie Martin, fair treasurer.

The number compares with a 25-year average of 91,457 between 1987 and 2011, according to Gazette records.

Comfortable weather and two music groups that topped the country charts during fair week helped boost the attendance numbers.

Florida Georgia Line helped set an all-time, one-day fair record of 30,667 on the fair's opening day, Tuesday. The group came to town with the No. 1 song on the country charts.

Two days later, teen heartthrob Hunter Hayes, who had a song at No. 2, was the headliner.

The acts were booked months in advance, when they were well known, but their stars rose in the intervening months. Duplicating that scenario will be hard, although the fair has had similar luck from time to time over the years.

“You don't always know who's going to do that. If only we had a crystal ball, right?” Martin said. “We try to pick acts that will draw, obviously, and hope for the best.”

Police and fair officials and some neighbors had trouble with the record crowd Tuesday.

“We are limited by size. We're only so big,” Martin noted, “but overall, I think a lot of people were able to enjoy a very good concert, which was the goal.”

Martin said Tuesday's performance brought many new faces to the county, some even coming from out of state.

Those fans likely spent money outside the Janesville fairgrounds, so their influx boosted the local economy, Martin said.

Whether the economy had any effect on local residents' willingness to spend money at the fair is hard to say, Martin said.

“There's so many options people have these days, so obviously they must have felt the different things we were offering were something they wanted to spend their money on, so that's a good feeling for us,” Martin said.

The stars might not have been the only things to pump up attendance. The fair tried new ways to entertain fairgoers this year, Martin said, including acrobats from Africa and the first-ever performance of the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra at the fair Sunday night.

Fair organizers will review successes and difficulties of this year's fair in August as they start preparing for the 4-H Fair for summer 2014, Martin said.


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