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Monday, October 24, 2011

State Fair takes its final bow – for this year

Rain cuts attendance, but spending picks up as 2011 edition ends


By JOHN MONK - jmonk@thestate.com By JOHN MONK The State
Racing pigs, Celtic dancers, fine art and elephant ears — all that and more ended Sunday night as the 142nd S.C. State Fair in Columbia took its final bow for the year.
But there were no pickpockets.
“That’s part of the carnival image of the past,” said Fair general manager Gary Goodman, who proudly described earlier Sunday how a sophisticated security system that includes metal detectors, 17 high-tech surveillance cameras with zoom capacity and some 50-60 police officers keeps crime at bay.
“We have more deputies here at nighttime probably than they have in the rest of Richland County,” said Goodman, 63, overseeing his 27th fair. Guards turned away folks who wore gang colors, including several motorcycle gang members who were asked not to wear their jackets in the fair, he said.
Attendance at the 12-day event was about 442,350 — about 10 percent off last year’s record of 492,000, Goodman said. But per capita spending was down less than 6 percent, meaning individuals were spending more per person than last year. In all the fair appeared poised to rake in a minimum of $22 million — some $1.8 million a day — this year.
More people might have come, but four rain days — including a brief but dangerous windstorm — threw attendance off.
An Oct. 13 storm prompted fair officials to activate an emergency evacuation plan for the first time, Goodman said. People were ushered into permanent buildings before heavy winds hit, knocking concession stands around and blowing signs off hinges.
“In our business, weather is something you have to roll with,” said Goodman, mindful of the August high winds at the Indiana State Fair that killed five and injured 45.
One thing that surprised Goodman this year was the number of unclaimed lost cell phones — 100 at last count Sunday afternoon. But none were smartphones like the iPhone, he said. “Their owners don’t lose them, or if they do, they are waiting on them to be found,” he said.Read more:
http://www.thestate.com/2011/10/24/2020989/state-fair-takes-its-final-bow.html#ixzz1biLIbKdO

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