Fair attendance declines a bit

The Orange County Fair wrapped up its 2012 “Home Sweet Home"-themed year with about 1.3 million visitors, a slight dip from last year.

“It was everything we expected,” said O.C. Fair & Event Center Chief Executive Jerome Hoban. “We got nipped in the bud with a little bit of heat at the end, but we survived it, and everyone had a good time.”

The 2011 fair, which broke all previous attendance records, drew 1.4 million guests. The fairgrounds received a good deal of attention that year, as the state weighed a proposal to sell the 150-acre property to private investors and a community group rallied to block the sale.

This year, many visitors took part in promotional days, when entrance fees were waived or reduced in exchange for charitable donations, or during certain hours on less crowded days. Similar promotions were offered last year.

This year, active service members and veterans received free admission to the fair during the entire 23-day span, Hoban said.

More than 12,000 of them passed through the fair’s gates.

About 103,000 visitors entered during the fair’s Rise & Shine hours, between 10 and 11 a.m., when admission was reduced to $2.

We Care Wednesdays drew 79,774 people, who were admitted for free if they donated books, food, school supplies or clothing, Hoban said.

“To me that’s very significant,” Hoban said. “It’s about how many people gave back to the community.”

Although the fair saw slightly lower attendance than in previous years, Centennial Farm’s population grew by 27 piglets, one Jersey calf and three kids, the fair announced Monday.

Chicken Charlie’s, known for its zany fried concoctions, moved 9,000 deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

On top of that, some 100,000 pieces of chocolate-covered bacon were sold.

The question on the tip of everyone’s tongue is what next year’s theme will be, Hoban said, but it isn’t expected to be announced for about a month.

Twitter: @lawilliams30