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Merced fair grows attendance, sees drop in ticket sales
Fewer auction animals bring in more money
merced fair pic1
The Merced County Fair featured a variety of free admission promotions for its 2014 run, including Kids' Day on June 12 when children 12 and under were admitted at no charge. - photo by Photo Contributed

More people visited the Merced County Fair this year, a 7 percent increase over 2013, however, paid attendance was down 11 percent from the previous year.

The unaudited attendance for the 2014 fair is 73,465, up 7 percent from the 2013 fair attendance total of 68,601. Paid attendance was 44,428, down 11 percent from last year’s 50,035.

The fair offered several promotions for free admission to the fair. On Opening Day, June 11, seniors 65 years and older were admitted to the fair free of charge.  Kids’ Day, June 12, saw children 12 and under gain free admission, and on June 15, Father’s Day, everyone could enter the fair gates for free from noon until 3 p.m.

"We’re proud of the 123rd Merced County Fair for many reasons. We’re pleased that our goal to bring more families to the fair during these challenging economic times is working by keeping the price of a general admission ticket at $5. A bargain admission isn’t enough to attract fairgoers and keep them coming back,” said CEO Tom Musser. “The fair offered a lot of entertainment value for the price of admission and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.”

Even though the number of animals at the Junior Livestock Auction was down by 11 from the 2013 sale at 565, the total auction sales was $578,642 — $65,337 more than the 2013 total of $513,305.

The average bid at the auction was $5.44 per pound, up from $5.11 per pound at the 2013 auction and the average seller price for the 2014 auction was $1,026.15 compared to $891.15 in 2013.

Looking at the increase in the average bid per pound, the average seller price and the auction sales total compared to the previous year, Garrett Pedretti, superintendent of the Merced County Fair’s Livestock Department, said the county’s ag economy continues to improve, but the biggest reason for those healthy numbers is “the generosity of the community who come out to support and reward these kids for their hard work. The outpouring of our community’s support never ceases to amaze us.”

 There wasn’t a dry eye in the auction arena, when the auctioneer announced McCalister “Cali” Russell of Hilmar Colony 4-H sold her 127-pound Suffolk lamb, “Bello,” for $80 a pound — a grand total of $10,160. Before the bidding started, one of the auction volunteers let everyone know that the lamb sale proceeds are going to a special cause. Cali, 16, is donating all the auction sale money to Children’s Hospital in Oakland, to “give back” for saving her life last year when she developed acute respiratory distress syndrome and missed out on showing a sheep at the fair.

At the dairy replacement heifer sale there was a slight drop in the number of animals sold from 45 in 2013 to 41 this year. But the average price per head was way up at $3,836 compared to $2,268 last year. The total sale was $157,300. At the rabbit auction, 102 lots were sold – 35  single fryers and 67 meat pens (3 rabbits), compared to 107 lots sold in 2013. The average price per lot was $104 for a single fryer and $311 for a meat pen. The total sale was $24,443.

The market animals sold at this year’s livestock auction were 9 beef, 335 hogs, 125 lambs and 95 goats. The biggest changes this year were 11 fewer lambs and 12 fewer goats were sold at auction.

The average per pound bid at the 2014 fair are as follows: goats, $7.22; hogs, $4.49; lambs, $6.69 and beef, $4.39. The total sale for goats was $57,341.The total sale for hogs was $362,521. The total sale for lambs was $110,774 and the total sale for beef was $48,110.

The 2014 Merced County Fair’s Grand Champions areAllyson Sousa, Hilmar FFA, Grand Champion Beef, $10 per lb., 1,271 lbs., $12,710; Abigail Douglas, Merced River 4-H, Grand Champion Goat, $10 per lb., 78 lbs., $780; Tiffany Nance, Merced FFA, Grand Champion Lamb, $12 per lb., 139 lbs., $1,668; Kilee Carrera, McSwain 4-H, Grand Champion Hog, $7 per lb., 269 lbs., $1,883.