LUMBERTON — A combination of bad weather and a slow ecomony is being blamed for smaller crowds this year at the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair, but organizers still say the 67th edition was a success.
Planning for next year’s event has already begun.
About 61,000 people attended the fair, which began on Oct. 4 and ended on Saturday. The number is down from the 92,000 who attended last year’s fair and well below fair President Allen Faircloth’s goal of 100,000 people. The fair was closed Oct. 8 because of heavy rainfall and gray skies that hung over the fairgrounds during most of last week.
“The numbers were way down this year due to the weather and due to not opening up on Tuesday,” Faircloth said. “I also think it’s a strong reflection on our economy. People aren’t spending money like they used to.”
Attendance for the fair’s annual Special Needs Childrens’ Day on Thursday was down from 9,000 in 2012 to 5,000 this year. The day was planned for Oct. 8 but was rescheduled because of the rain.
Faircloth said the amount of money the fair made is still being calculated, but said 23,000 people — 37 percent of all those who attended the fair — got in free because of specials days for veterans, students and special needs children, as well as free admission in exchange for food donations to feed the hungry.
Faircloth said those who made it to the fair enjoyed some big attractions, including the debut of the American Racing Mowers Association’s national championship races on Friday and Saturday.
“That was new for us this year,” Faircloth said. “That was probably our sole biggest attraction. The lions and tigers drew a big crowd every night and so did [hypnotist] Alan Sands.”
Coble Wilson, a past president of the fair and a member of the fair board, said the fair succeeded in giving fair-goers a memorable experience.
“I think everything went really well,” Wilson said. “You can’t control the weather … but overall we had a safe fair. Patrons really enjoyed the experience they had with the nice ride operators and the cleanliness of the rides.”
Faircloth said proceeds from the fair will go to local community organizations as well as to pay for work at the fairgrounds.
“It will go toward improvements on the grounds, including improved paving and improved electrical work,” Faircloth said.
Faircloth said the fair committee met on Sunday and decided what to bring back for the 2014 fair, including the lawnmower races, Sands’ show, the Pleasant Valley Pig Races, the petting zoo and the mechanical bull.
“We met … and talked about the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said. “Of course we want to keep the good and get rid of the bad and the ugly.”
Faircloth said the fair was an overall success.
“We think we had a really good fair and our patrons were really happy,” he said.
“Attendance was down … but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great fair,” he said. “Hopefully next year we’ll have better weather for the full nine days.”