Attendance at the Douglas County Fair was down 8% over last year, Douglas County Fair Director Dan Hults said.
The week started strong, with Tuesday being the best day for attendance, but dropped steeply over the weekend. Hults attributed the slow weekend to rain and the reported threat of a major thunderstorm.
Tuesday night, 5,000 packed the Cascade Community Credit Union Amphitheater for country singer Randy Houser’s concert. At the other end of the spectrum, fewer than 200 turned out for the Friday night concert of alternative rock band Thrice. Thunderstorms had been predicted that evening, but none materialized during the concert. A small amount of rain fell Friday, but at concert time, the skies were clear and the amphitheater was nearly empty.
Collective Soul rocked the house Wednesday, drawing 4,500 people. And rocker Bret Michaels, former lead singer of the metal band Poison, had successful concert Thursday evening, drawing a crowd of 4,000.
The National Weather Service in Medford called Hults personally with weather updates, storm details and projected warnings throughout the week.
That allowed fair officials to put an emergency action plan in place for fair-goes, staff and animals in case a storm did touch down.
“Luckily the eye of the storm decided to take a left turn just south of Myrtle Creek on Friday afternoon, and we only experienced scattered rain showers,” Hults said.
The plan included emergency shelter locations and medical resources, an animal rescue or relocation plan, mapped evacuation routes, designated emergency personnel and duties and the installation of cement wind barriers.
“They were prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best,” Hults said.
With wet weather Saturday morning and the first bus arriving at 10 a.m. only had two fair guests. By 11 a.m., though, the sun was shining and the buses were full. More than 1,000 guests arrived at the gate every hour until 5 p.m.
About 3,000 attended the Coastal Farm and Ranch Challenge of Champions Bullriding Competition, the main attraction Saturday evening.
Over the course of the week, 19,900 fair-goers took advantage of the free bus rides to and from the fair.
Sales overall showed a slight increase in receipts over last year despite the weather. Hults said the 27 vendor booths said they were happy with the fair and reported that booth sales were up, with people stopping, talking and spending money. And carnival ticket sales were up 5%.
FFA and 4-H entries were about the same as in previous years.
In addition to the annual Rotary Junior Livestock Auction, and a variety of animal shows featuring rabbits, horses, cattle, pigs, goats and more, there were 5,069 exhibits in categories like baking, sewing, art and photography. Local schools contributed 2,069 works for the annual kids art exhibit.