Fair sets records

MONROE — This year’s Evergreen State Fair raised a record amount of money for Snohomish County through on-site ticket sales and parking — though it came at a price to patrons.

The 2011 county-run fair beat the all-time revenue record set in 2007.

Officials don’t yet know how many people passed through the gates this year. But a quick review shows that higher fair prices accounted for the revenue boost. Tickets cost $1 more than in 2007, and parking rose by $2 to $4, depending on the day of the week.

Parks director Tom Teigen acknowledged the impact of the price hikes, in effect since 2009, but said this year’s fair nevertheless marked a big turnaround.

“Obviously, it was way more crowded than the past three years and we brought in more revenue,” Teigen said.

He added that, “The weather was great, the crowds were great, people had a good time.”

With the slogan “Hungry for Fun,” the 2011 fair benefited from sun for nearly all of its 12-day run from Aug. 25 through Sept. 5. The 103rd annual fair also was the first time people could buy fair tickets online.

The fair generates more than 70 percent of the annual fairgrounds revenue.

On-site gate admission and parking this year generated nearly $1.4 million, preliminary numbers from the county show. That’s $19,644 more than the previous record in 2007, an increase of about 1.4 percent.

The Snohomish County Dairy Women had their second-best year ever with the Purple Cow stand they’ve operated for 51 years. It had $64,300 in gross receipts.

General admission tickets in 2011 cost $10, compared to $9 in 2007. Parking cost $10 on weekends and $8 on weekdays versus $6 in 2007.

Since 2009, visitors also have paid a 5 percent admissions tax on top of the ticket price. That money is intended for new fairgrounds buildings. The same admissions tax is collected at the Future of Flight aerospace attraction.

Though many fairgoers paid more in admission, more than 20,000 people did take advantage of free or reduced prices. That included a promotion offering free admission for donating food. During the two Fridays of the fair, the county collected more than 50,000 pounds of edibles for local food banks.

Attendance was projected to hit 800,000 this year, up from 750,000 in 2010. Final attendance numbers aren’t expected until later this year, Teigen said, and may appear lower than in the past because of the new electronic system for counting people going through the gates.

This year’s fair also showcased improvements to its Evergreen Speedway racetrack and the new 33,600-square-foot Evergreen Event Center.

Teigen praised the work of the new Evergreen Speedway operator, High Road Promotions.

“We’re extremely optimistic about the future,” said High Road’s Traci Hobbs, director of sales and marketing. “There’s a lot of potential there.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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