CHIPPEWA FALLS — For the first time, the Northern Wisconsin State Fair topped 100,000 visitors over the five-day festival, said fair director Rusty Volk.
"I'm estimating we are up 20% over 2019," Volk said Friday. "Our carnival, including the rides and games, were up over 30% from 2019. Our food and merchandise vendors were up more than 50%."
Volk said pent-up demand from not having a 2020 fair, combined with perfect weather and a top-notch music lineup, led to the record-setting crowd.
"The weather was perfect, and people were ready to get out," Volk said.
The 2019 attendance was between 90,000 and 95,000. Volk said it is hard to get an exact figure because veterans get in free.
"No doubt about it, Saturday night was the biggest," he said. "It kept building all week. And it was the largest crowd we ever had on a Sunday.
Most of the main stage shows sold well.
"LANCO (a country band that played on Friday night) didn't sell as well as the others, but they put on a fabulous show," Volk said.
Hairball, a Twin Cities-based cover band, headlined the Thursday show, and also played at the fair in 2019. Volk said the rave reviews made him decide to book them again for 2022.
"I'm not sure which night," he added.
No other 2022 acts have been signed, but Volk is already working on the lineup.
Volk said the new veterans' wall was a huge hit. He was pleased the grounds stayed so clean throughout the event.
"I'm very proud of our staff, and we had very few incidents with that large of a crowd," Volk said.
Chippewa Falls police officers did patrol the grounds. In past years, they would be on bicycle, but with such a large crowd, the officers wound up walking the grounds instead.
Volk became fair director in 2008 and reiterated that this year was the largest during his tenure. The fair's records before he arrived don't indicate any years had larger attendance years than this year, he added.