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Los Angeles County Fair reports 5% rise in attendance, cites lower prices

Los Angeles County Fair reports 5% rise in attendance, cites lower prices
Danica Paz, left, of Sherman Oaks, and Amy Barer, of Los Angeles, arrive early at the Fairplex to beat beat the crowds on the first day of the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, Calif., on Aug. 31. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona ended a 19-day run Sunday that drew 1.13 million visitors, a 5% increase from the previous year.

Managers of the annual celebration of deep-fried foods, dizzying carnival rides and barnyard animal exhibits attribute the increase to lower prices, new promotions and milder weather.

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“One of the underlying issues that the community raised was that it was too expensive,” said Miguel Santana, president and chief executive of the Fairplex, the nonprofit that is home to the fair. He added that the temperatures were lower for the second two weeks of the fair, compared with last year’s scorching temperatures.

The attendance of paying customers — not county schoolchildren who are allowed in free of charge — was 1.13 million, up from 1.07 million in 2017.

To attract more paying customers this year, the fair did not raise entrance prices. Also, with the fair paying homage this year to the iconic cross-country Route 66, each food vendor offered a $6.60 meal package, including a meal of mac and cheese in a waffle cone with buffalo chicken.

The fair also sold a package that included four season passes, plus parking and a collectible lanyard for $66, a deal compared with the $180 price if the components were purchased separately, according to fair officials. On select days, residents of specific cities and regions were also charged entrance prices of only $6.60, compared with $14 for adults on weekdays and $20 on weekends.

“As a whole, we did better financially than in the past,” Santana said.

The summer festival marks the second fair under the management of Santana, the former top administrative officer for the city of Los Angeles who was tapped to turned the troubled nonprofit around after years of financial problems and controversy over high administrative salaries.

The nonprofit has operated in the red since 2010, according to reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The deficit has been shrinking, however, with the most recent report showing a $1.7-million deficit in 2016, down from $2.1 million in 2015 and $3.4 million in 2014.

Santana said he has so far been able to set aside a reserve for emergencies, adjust staffing levels and put together a plan to invest in upgrades to the Fairplex facility.

“I think we are getting closer to the place that I want to be financially,” he said. “We are not done yet.”

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