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Carisa Cegavske

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August 12, 2014
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Alternative rockers boost attendance at Douglas County Fair

Douglas County fairgoers weren’t in a blues mood this year.

Fairgrounds Manager Harold Phillips said he was disappointed by the turnout for blues singer Jonny Lang and for Deep Purple’s brand of classic rock. Instead, alternative rock topped the attendance charts at the 2014 Douglas County Fair, just as it did in 2013. Attendance at Friday night’s Seether concert reached 9,200, matching the attendance at last year’s 3 Doors Down concert.

Phillips said he will keep that in mind as he begins courting acts for next year.

“Alternative rock genre plays well here in Douglas County. It always has. That seems to be our strength,” Phillips said.

Overall fair attendance hasn’t been tallied yet, thanks to a new computer program and a priority on calculating the payroll, but Phillips is ready to pronounce the 2014 Douglas County Fair a success.

“It turned out to be a really good fair,” Phillips said Monday.

He cited a successful 4-H auction, the dedication of a renovated pavilion and an absence of public safety problems as a population equal to a small city visited the fair each night.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more. That’s what we work hard for all year long,” he said.

Phillips said he estimated the numbers will be down a bit from last year due to lower attendance at some of the evening concerts. About 53,000 people attended last year, the first year the fair shrank from five days to four. Phillips said attendance could be tallied as early as this afternoon, too late for The News-Review’s morning deadline.

Phillips estimated attendance at Saturday’s Deep Purple concert at about 7,500.

“It did really well, but my expectations were it would do a little better,” he said. “Classic rock and country were always the meat and potatoes at the fair.”

Although he has been on stage with the Rolling Stones, Lang just didn’t draw, and Phillips said he may shy away from inviting another blues singer any time soon.

He is already courting two artists for next year but is coy about who he’s trying for.

“They’re both female” is all he would say.

He said the last female artist at the fair was country singer Miranda Lambert, who performed in 2010, a year when performances by Billy Idol and the Scorpions drove total fair attendance to 74,811 people.

Phillips said he was surprised by the number of county residents who took advantage of free admission offers this year, especially the more than 2,000 people who earned entrance by dressing a vegetable on Thursday — four times the number the year before. He said he may seek corporate sponsorship of the event next year, since those entries represent a $20,000 loss in gate receipts. He said he does not want to discontinue the event.

“So many people took advantage of that, it’s a big statement of the need for it,” he said.

One of the fair’s highlights was the dedication Thursday of the fair’s oldest building, renamed the Don Lilja Pavilion, and the newly constructed LaVerne Murphy Kitchen inside it. The $1.3 million renovation of the 1954 building was financed by businesses, individuals, governments and nonprofit groups. The project included remodeled restrooms, new bleachers and a new roof.

One advantage this year over last was the absence of rain. On Saturday of the 2013 fair, the midway cleared out between 5 and 6 p.m. when .04 of an inch of rain fell. This year, not a drop.

“The weather couldn’t have cooperated any better,” he said.

Phillips said cleanup began Sunday as bedding began to be hauled out of the barns. Next, buildings will be cleared out and prepared for weddings, class reunions and all the other smaller events the fairgrounds hosts.

“Cleaning this up and getting it back to normal takes about three weeks,” he said.

At the fairgrounds office, employees began tallying the payroll for 100 temporary workers who must by law be paid Wednesday. They performed jobs ranging from cleanup crew to traffic control to stage hands.

Phillips said he plans to stick with the shorter fair next year as well.

“I love the four-day fair,” he said.

• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Aug 12, 2014 01:30PM Published Aug 13, 2014 09:21AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.