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A Fair Ending : Attendance at 101st Event Was Down, but Admission, Parking Revenues Were Up


COSTA MESA — The carnival rides have been dismantled. Food vendors, already packed, are heading for the next county fair.

Workers also started to remove the trash, wash the pavement, mow the browned grass and tear down exhibits Monday, a day after the 101st Orange County Fair concluded its 17-day run.

"It's kind of like a ghost town," Jill Lloyd, fair spokeswoman, said Monday afternoon. "Everything's gone. It's kind of like when your best friend leaves town."

This year's event was marred by a roller coaster accident that injured eight people, and the arrest of a carnival worker who allegedly fondled three girls on one of the attractions.

The fair also suffered a 2.5% dip in attendance compared with 1992. Attendance this year was 668,096, compared with last year's figure of 685,240.

But Lloyd said that despite the slightly lower attendance, admission and parking revenues were up. Admission and parking revenues were $2,572,183 this year, compared with $2,458,384 in 1992, an increase of 4.6%.

"With the economy the way it is, we're very pleased with the results," said Norb Bartosik, the fair's general manager.

Fair officials said that because county fairs elsewhere in the state have suffered larger drops in attendance, they're pleased with this year's event, which featured crops and vegetables and celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Ferris wheel.

"I think, overall, it was a very good fair," said Don Willet, president of the Fair Board. "When fairs around the state are doing poorly, we held our own."

The fair was "just a chance for people to forget their troubles and worries and go back to basics."

Lloyd said the closing weekend's attendance and carnival ride receipts were higher than during the fair's first two weekends, and its final weekend last year.

Alcohol-related arrests were also down this year, Bartosik said. There were 34 arrests, most for minors caught drinking alcohol, compared with 52 last year.

Under the fair's alcohol awareness program, limits were placed on the number of beers sold to one person and on hours of sale, Bartosik said. The fair also sought to raise public awareness about sensible drinking, Bartosik said.

The continued high visibility of police officers on the grounds also helped reduce arrests, Bartosik said.

With free parking offered for vehicles containing four people or more, the number of people who car-pooled to the fairgrounds increased. A total of 58,140 vehicles took part in the program this year, an increase over the 54,192 vehicles counted last year. Fair officials said the figure means 35% of the total fair attendance participated.

There was also good news for 4-H and Future Farmers of America club members, who sold their animals at the fair. The annual Junior Livestock Auction brought in $152,081 for 286 animals raised by county youth, up $5,757 from 1992, when 311 animals were sold.

While this year's event is over, officials will be taking little time off before preparing for the 102nd fair. Next year, the fair will pay tribute to horses and hay. An announcement on the theme and dates will be made in August.

"We start budgeting and planning next month," Lloyd said. "We'll be starting all over again."

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