JANESVILLE

Earlier this week, The Gazette asked those attending the Rock County 4-H Fair to share their favorite memories.

Some mentioned the rides, while others talked about spending time with family. Still others talked about the food.

When it was fair board President Randy Thompson’s turn to answer, he said it was the smiling faces of young fair-goers year after year.

“I just love watching the young kids who come out here, who may or may not be exposed to the animals or the various aspects of the fair,” Thompson said. “Just to see their smiling faces. They’re having a good time.”

Those young fair-goers accounted for the 55,068 people who attended the first five days of the 2017 fair. Attendance numbers for Sunday, the fair’s last day, were not available before press time.

Attendance in the first five days of this year’s fair was just 387 shy of last year’s 55,455 in the same time span.

Thompson anticipates 2017’s total attendance will be higher than that of 2016 once Sunday’s numbers are counted.

“I think everyone, myself included, feels pretty good about this week’s fair,” he said.

For the first time, ticket prices were $10 at the gate and $8 if purchased before July 15. The price increase was not a problem for many people, Thompson said.

As of Sunday, it was too early to know how much revenue the fair generated, but Thompson was confident the fair remained within its budget.

“Preliminary estimates would say we’re going to do reasonably well this year,” he said.

For the second year, the fair did not add an additional charge for grandstand entertainment. Thompson said he was pleased with the number of people who came for the live shows, especially for Sunday’s bull riding and barrel show.

2017 marked the first time in several years the fair featured bull riding, which Thompson declared a success judging by the number of people attending.

Saturday’s attendance of 13,249 was the largest of the fair’s first five days, and it included an “excellent crowd” that came to see the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Thompson said.

Weather always is a huge determining factor as to how well the fair goes, Thompson said. There was rain Wednesday night during performances by Jo Dee Messina and Joe Diffie, but the crowd still seemed to have a good time, Thompson said.

Beyond Wednesday’s wetness, Thompson said the weather made for an excellent week at the fair.

Given the opportunity, Thompson said there isn’t much he would have done differently. There were very few hiccups, but there is always room to improve, he said.

The fair is never a finished product, Thompson said. Moving forward, he hopes the board can continue to build and grow along with meeting its goal of having as many people as possible come out to enjoy the fair.

Reporter - Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health

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