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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Fair Officials Blame Drop in Attendance on Economy


LANCASTER — About all that is left of the 1993 Antelope Valley Fair is the cleanup and the analysis. The cleanup is expected to top the scales at 300 tons of trash and the analysis bears the bad news that paid attendance fell more than 7%.

Nearly 250,000 people came through the gates at the fair, including about 161,000 who paid to enter, according to figures released Tuesday. The 1992 fair attracted about 302,000 people, including 174,000 admission payers.

Antelope Valley Fair General Manager Bruce Latta sized up the annual event one day after it ended by saying that, other than the attendance drop, all went well.

"It was a good fair, a fun fair, a peaceful fair," Latta said.

Latta, like other fair managers throughout California, is blaming the weak economy for the diminished crowds. Attendance has dropped an average of 6% this year at fairs statewide, according to a nonprofit agency that provides services to the 80 California fairs.

One improvement that Latta believes the Antelope Valley Fair made this year in the area of attendance is in increasing the ratio of paying fair patrons to those allowed in free. At the 1992 fair, only 58% of those who attended paid to enter. This year, 64% paid. Latta, who took over the fair manager post five months ago, hopes to see paid attendance amount to 75% or 80% of the total gate count at future fairs.

Free admission is granted to concessionaires, fair workers, performers, volunteers, media representatives and the like, said fair spokeswoman Sheila Burnette.

"We need to trim down the list a little," she said, noting that the people who enter free are included in the attendance count because they spend money at the fair for food, souvenirs and the like.

The fair's grandstand drew larger crowds this year, with nearly 59,000 attending pay-to-enter events that included everything from off-road races to the comedian Gallagher. In 1992, about 51,000 people attended grandstand events.

A state audit of the fair operation, Latta said, is expected to be released by the end of month.

As for the trash, the average fair patron generates a whopping three pounds of garbage, says Burnette. Waste Management of Lancaster was awarded the task of hauling it away.

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