Fair folks not complaining about smaller turnout

By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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A faltering economy kept Gold County Fair attendance down this year but not as deep as expected by organizers of the four-day Auburn event. An estimated 21,250 people paid to attend the fair this year – about a 15 percent drop from last year, unofficial numbers indicate. General Manager Greg Hegwer said the drop in attendance was expected to be even greater. “I think the fair was a total success with this economy,” Hegwer said Monday. “Using other fair numbers, we had budgeted to be 20 percent down. This year, we’re feeling the reality after three or four years of continuous rises.” The fair kept ticket prices at 2008 levels and, as it has in recent years, made minor adjustments to keep people entertained and moving around the grounds from Thursday to this past Sunday. Because of budget constraints, Hegwer said he went for lesser-known acts this year and didn’t repeat a popular tiger show. But acts like Meadow Vista’s Busy Bee Dogs and the country band Whisky Dawn on Saturday helped fill the gap with quality, well-received entertainment, Hegwer said. The fair also offered two days of demolition-derby action at the rodeo arena for the first time. Hegwer said the stands were about three-quarters full both Saturday and Sunday for the derby. That was enough to consider making the derby a two-day event again next year, he said. Vendors reported fair-goers weren’t spending as much money and the Butler Amusements carnival reported a drop in business. But Hegwer said they weren’t complaining because the weak economy has had an impact throughout the fair circuit. Matt Holguin, of San Luis Obispo’s Colossal Gelato, said his stand normally sets up at triathlons and mountain-bike races around the state but did well in its first visit to the Auburn fair. “We’ll be back,” Holguin said. “There are real nice people up here and an awesome staff.” Dan Lovas, Auburn Martial Arts Center owner, said that he was pleased that his business had a presence at the fair – including mixed martial arts demonstrations that attracted up to 300 people. He estimated that more than 200 people liked what they saw and signed up for two weeks of free courses at his school. “Every business in town should be at the fair,” Lovas said. Winners at fair Auburn Fair Boosters Talent Show winners at Gold County Fair: 11 and under – Marlise Dizon singing “The Wizard and I” 12- to 17 years – Courtney Hanaway dancing to “I Can Only Imagine” 18 years-plus – Barbershop quartet TBDL: Ozzie Palos, Kent Borrowdale, Ken Potter, Stan Trumbull. Gold Country Fair Parade winners: Walking Group – Placer High School Golden Hillman Marching Band Float – Ranch-related division, Best of show – Fawnridge Vineyards & Winery Animal division – Long Valley 4-H miniature horses and donkeys Open division – E.V. Cain Marching Band