CHIPPEWA FALLS — Despite the heat, high humidity and a hard sudden rain Thursday, Northern Wisconsin State Fair director Rusty Volk said attendance was strong this year and should be relatively close to last year’s 95,000 mark.
“With the rain on Thursday, the vendors were down 60 percent (that day),” Volk said. “In the end we are at the same level as last year. It’s a statement about the community — we have great community support.”
While rain kept attendance low on Thursday, crowd size surged on Friday for the sold-out Martina McBride concert.
“We got to the point where we didn’t sell any more (grandstand) tickets,” Volk said. “I don’t recall that happening recently.”
Volk added that includes last year’s Beach Boys concert — some grandstand seats were available a year ago.
Sunday’s crowd was also above average compared with recent past Sundays, as the parking lot was full by 11:30 a.m., with many people coming to attend the nondenominational church service, he said.
Because of heat during the day, it appeared that crowds arrived later and stayed deeper into the night, with long lines at rides well past 10 p.m.
“They buy armbands and ride it as much as they want,” Volk said. “The picturesque layout (of the carnival) was awesome this year.”
The top exhibit was the new Lambeau Field Live display, with former Green Bay Packers on hand for photos, along with a variety of game jerseys and other team memorabilia.
“People loved it — all the grandparents got to take their children and share the experience,” Volk said.
The 2019 fair will be July 10-14. Volk is already working on next year, although he has no music acts signed yet.
“I’m ready to put in offers right away,” he said.
Just a few years ago, the fair was drawing between 70,000 and 75,000 annually over its five-day run. Attendance jumped to 84,000 in 2015 and 91,000 in 2016, before last year hitting 95,000.
The rain on Thursday caused a 30-minute break of music at Rock Fest as well.
Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said it was a relatively quiet year for his staff.
“We had in excess of 30 drug calls,” Kowalczyk said. “We had a lot of EMS calls because of the weather, with many from heat exhaustion.”
There also were no physical assaults reported this year, Kowalczyk said.
Both last year and this year, Rock Fest and the Northern Wisconsin State Fair ran the same weekend, but that will change next year, as Rock Fest is slated for July 18-20, 2019.