Final taste of the fair

Don’t rain on my parade – or fair.

Persistent rain and storms hurt attendance numbers at this year’s Hickory American Legion Fair, event organizers said Monday. The five-day fair, which usually draws thousands of Catawba County fairgoers each year, did not have as many patrons roaming its many avenues this year due to bad weather.

“It’s disappointing to work for 12 months and have a let-down in the weather,” said Steve Mains, Hickory American Legion Fair president. “It seemed like every night at 6:45 p.m., the rain started and you would see as many people coming in as there was going out.”

Rain on Thursday and Monday, as well as strong storms on Friday, discouraged many from coming to the fairgrounds, Mains said. Some were caught within the fairgrounds when the storms hit, but Mains said those attendees were given refunds or tickets for the next day.

“The incident level this year is minor,” Mains said, adding that there were few complaints about the weather and even less police and medical issues.

Fair vendors and workers also said attendance was low. David Wicks, who has manned the “Candy Shack” inside the fairgrounds for years, said the week was slow.

“We have not done the business we usually do,” Wicks said, “The rain really keeps people away.”

Wicks said that normally, the midway is packed with patrons from all over the county – a scene that was not the case on Monday, the fair’s last day. A steady drizzle and occasional downpour left most of the fair’s walkways empty on Monday. The normal Labor Day crowd, as Wicks described, was missing.

Despite low attendance on Thursday, Friday and Monday, Mains said good weather over the weekend brought more people out. Mains said there was a “substantial increase” in exhibit and livestock traffic this year on Saturday and Sunday, something fair organizers sought to increase in the planning stages.

“We also received a great response from our free, daily and nightly acts,” Mains said. “Even though we have had rain most nights, we have still had the nightly concerts.”

This year, the fair featured artists like Ronnie McDowell and Craig Campbell in its nightly shows, free events that Mains said were successes. 
“Overall, we’ve had a great fair,” Mains said. “The weather wasn’t the best, but that’s something you can’t control.”

As for next year, Mains said organizers have already re-signed another act for 2012.

“We are already in the planning stages for 2012,” he said. “We’re already working everything out for next year.”