Arizona State Fair: Attendance slips, but officials call it a success

A glimpse into the Arizona State Fair during the evening of this fall 2015 season. (Courtesy photo)

The Arizona State Fair offers a variety of foods – from chocolate-covered bacon to turkey legs. (Courtesy photo)

Games are just one of the several attractions at the annual Arizona State Fair. (Courtesy photo)

Workers have dismantled the rides. Vendors have put away the giant turkey legs and cotton candy. And the performers have packed their bags.

Officials with this year’s Arizona State Fair called it a success, despite a 4-percent drop in attendance from last year.

The fair, which ran from Oct. 16 to Nov. 8, had 1.1 million visitors this season.

Kristi Walsh, the assistant executive director for the fair, points out one factor to keep in mind: Rain.

“When you consider that we are an 18-day fair, with five days of rain and ride closures, we were only down by a little,” Walsh said. “So it was a really, really good year.”

The Top 5s of the Arizona State Fair:

While the annual fair might be all about the sounds and sights for attendees, the 48 full-time employees are all about the numbers. Here are the top-grossing games, rides and food vendors in the fair.

Top 5 games
One Ball
Big Water Race
Bank A Ball

Top 5 rides
La Grande Wheel
Sky ride
Wild River
Rave Wave

Top 5 food in carnival
Biggys 2
J’s Chicken BBQ
Mustards Café
Fried A Fair 2

Source: Arizona State Fair

Walsh said this season still had an incredible turnout despite the weather, pointing to a record-breaking final day that ushered in 113,196 visitors. The numbers, however, may not be enough to hold onto last season’s national ranking: The Arizona State Fair ranked as the third-most attended fair in the nation, despite being in the smallest measured grounds. The fair is near 19th Avenue and McDowell Road.

The fair featured 69 rides, 33 food vendors – some selling chocolate covered bacon and deep-fried cheesecake – and 499 live performances with headliners Sheryl Crow, Flo Rida and Jason Derulo.

“The fair was a week later in terms of the starting date, so we didn’t have the 100-degree temperatures that we usually have,” Walsh said. “Aside from the rain, everything worked well.”

The livestock section of the fair went down in the history books. Not only did prices for the animals increase across the board, she said, one notorious baby pygmy goat made international news headlines.

After somebody snatched the goat, media covered his disappearance, circulating a #FindGusGus hashtag. Fair workers and his mom Custard, had a happy ending when he was returned on Nov. 5.

While fair purchases can add up, Walsh said the fair hasn’t raised admission prices since 2008. The fair also offered a variety of deals.

Fair attendee Bobbi Carrillo brought her kids to attend the fair on the last week. While she said she estimated the family would spend about $200 for the activities, she found a way to cut costs. Instead of making multiple purchases for ferris wheels and roller coasters, Carrillo purchased $30 bracelets that allowed an unlimited access to the rides.

“Plan ahead definitely,” Carrillo said. “It will save money, and you will have a much better experience.”

Walsh said the fair doesn’t disclose gross revenues and is still tallying the final numbers.

“It’s a labor of love, but our jobs are fun,” Walsh said. “We get to make memories for people, how fun is that?”