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Merced County Fair sees better weather, lower attendance
merced fair pic
At this year's Merced County Fair, 500 children rode a pony around the ring at Randys Pony Rides. - photo by Photo Contributed


3,500 — Milkshakes served up at the 4-H Milk Bar; chocolate beat out vanilla again.   

191 — Fireworks shells used to put on free fireworks display Opening Day, June 12.

15,120 — Riders of Vertigo, the new Butler Amusements Carnival ride, during the 5-day fair. Manufactured in Ohio, it cost more than $700,000. It takes three employees up to 5 hours to set up and inspect, and it takes three employees four hours to dismantle it. It has 3,000 LED light bulbs with 37 individual color changing diodes or a total of 111,000 light emitting diodes.

28,000 — Pounds of ice cubes were distributed in 20-pound bags to concessionaires and others throughout the fairgrounds by Arctic Glacier Ice of Merced.

68,601 — Total attendance – paid and unpaid – at the 2013 Merced County Fair.

1,703 — Pounds of canned food donated by fairgoers to the Merced County Food Bank on Opening Day, June 12. Every person who donated two or more cans of food got free admission to the Auto Races in the Grandstand.

650 — Pounds of corndogs served up at Deckard’s Concessions, across from the Grandstand.

1,900 — Handshakes given to fairgoers by “Zunie,” the 21-year-old Capuchin monkey at the Monkey Hut. The costumed cutie pocketed a $1 bill in her apron then shook hands.

 60 — Pints of blood donated at the BloodSource blood drive held at the fairgrounds on June 14. Donors received free passes to the fair and early birds received free ride tickets.

1,000 — Participants in the Run for the Fallen event on  June 15 along Bear Creek. The 4.2 mile run/walk honored those who served and died in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. The 4th annual event teamed up with the Fair this year as part of the “Thank You Veterans” theme.

 500 — Red, white and blue lapel ribbons handed out to fairgoers by the Blue Star Moms, who also helped fairgoers write 300 postcards to active duty service members.

1,000 — Pounds of popcorn popped by Country Bear KettleKorn.

500Kiddies who rode a pony around the ring at Randy’s Pony Rides.

75 — Pounds of chocolate-covered bacon-on-a-stick sold at The Chocolate Factory.

11 — Found kids at the Mercy Medical Center Found Children’s Center & First Aid.  

576 — Goats, pigs, lambs and beef sold at the 2013 Junior Livestock Auction on June 15.

$513,305 — Total combined sales at Junior Livestock Auction.

$5.11 — Average bid per pound at Junior Livestock Auction, up from $4.66 per pound at the 2012 Livestock Auction.

2,500 — Backpacks handed out at the fair gates to fairgoers on EECU Kids’ Day on June 13, where all kids 12 and under got free admission.

10 — Puppies and dogs adopted at Wags and Whiskers Rescue and Last Hope Cat Kingdom booth. Adoption packages included deworming, neutering/spaying and shots.

426 — Entries in the 2013 Merced County Fair’s Grade A Milk Producers’ Contest.

While the 122nd Merced County Fair saw cooler temperatures than last year's triple digit heat days, the event recorded a 4 percent decrease in attendance compared to 2012.

Total attendance for the 2013 fair topped out at 68,000, significantly less than last year's figure of over 75,000 attended.

Tom Musser, CEO of the Merced County Fair, suggested that a decreased number of free passes and cancellation of school tours contributed to this year's lower numbers.

“We tightened up on the number of free passes we gave out,” said Musser.

Although general admission pre sale tickets were up 9.2 percent as compared to last year, paid attendance dropped 3.5 percent. This drop was due to the lower number of five packet sales, which sold for $20, as compared to the $16 price tag that was offered last year.

In 2012, the Merced County Fair cut the general admission price in half, to $5. The price cut spurred a positive response from fair goers, and although sales and attendance were down from 2012, both categories saw a 17 percent increase when compared to the 2011 numbers.

"A bargain admission isn’t enough to attract fairgoers and keep them coming back,” said Musser. “The fair offered a lot of entertainment value for the price of admission and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.”

This year’s theme at the 122nd annual fair, was “Thank You Veterans.” Various videos, activities and events all embodied the 2013 theme, in an attempt to give thanks to those who have or are currently serving in the armed forces.

Some of these events included a video highlight of soldiers from past and present, postcard writing to active duty service members and a special flagpole dedication.

“We’re very proud our community embraced our theme, Thank You Veterans," said Musser. “They came together to help us honor and celebrate our country's veterans and active duty service members."

This year's fair also showcased new offerings, including added carnival rides, animal races, an art center, karaoke and a hypnotist. Other more familiar attractions included a fireworks shows, 4-H and FFA exhibits, tractor parades and various educational workshops catered towards students.

“We’re excited to offer a growing number and variety of quality attractions for fairgoers to enjoy,” said Musser.

The 2013 Merced county fair also hosted various philanthropic events, including partnering with the Merced County Food Bank to collect more than 1,700 pounds of food. Along with the can collection, the fair welcomed Wags and Whiskers, an animal rescue group that offered on-site pet adoptions, and Bloodsource, which held a blood drive that produced 60 pints of donations.

Musser said he hopes the community will reach out to the fair officials with ideas for improvement and future attractions they would like to see.

 “We’ve already begun planning for the 2014 fair," said Musser. “We’d like the community to tell us what we can do to make the 2014 fair the best entertainment value and showcase of our county.”