TURLOCK — Attendance dropped at the Stanislaus County Fair this year, but between the altered start date, toasty weather the first few days and an economy that has yet to recover, officials are pleased with the turnout.
During the fair's 10-day run, 209,108 people visited, a drop of 8 percent from last year.
Chief Executive Officer Chris Borovansky said anything less than a 10 percent drop is considered a success.
"We had 210,000 people come through the gates," he said. "We'll take that in a heartbeat."
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The fair board grudgingly moved up the fair, which typically starts the last Friday in July, after the state fair moved its dates up to finish before the Labor Day weekend. Since the state fair saw a 10 percent increase in attendance, it's likely the changes will stay in place.
"The state fair is the sun around which we all orbit as far as dates," Borovansky said. "Absent any kind of horse racing board action, I couldn't see the state fair changing again."
Though the county and state fairs overlapped, officials worked to make sure exhibitors could attend both fairs. Merced County also moved its fair, holding it in the middle of June this year. The big move there resulted in a big jump in attendance: 17 percent, to 65,469 over last year's 55,794, the Merced Sun-Star reported. Merced has set its 2011 fair for June 14-19.
Borovansky said he was pleased that the 2010 fair — his first in Stanislaus County — went smoothly. Police reported a drop in incidents and arrests, which he attributed to a strong presence by the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, Turlock police and fair security. Cutting off alcohol sales earlier also helped, he said.
"It was exciting for me to be out on the grounds at 10:30, 11 o'clock at night and see families out there," Borovansky said.
The fair continued to try to broaden its audience, for the first time bringing in a comedian. Bill Engvall was a big hit; the night he performed, the seats were full.
"It's definitely something we'd look at doing again," Borovansky said.
As for next year, Borovansky and fair spokeswoman Adrenna Alkhas said they didn't take much time off before starting to plan for 2011.
"We were back at it the Monday after the fair closed," Borovansky said. With the fair celebrating its 100th birthday next year, everybody wants to put on a good show.
"We'll be back at the board in September with some ideas," he said. "The 100th fair lends itself to some possibilities that are pretty unique."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2343.