Early Sunday afternoon, something happened that had never happened
before, something that maybe seemed a long shot or just wishful
thinking. The one-millionth visitor walked through the gates at the
Orange County Fair.
Seven-year-old Rebecca Harris earned herself a lifetime pass to
the fair, but she has 999,999 other people to thank each time she
Fair officials have 1,058,192 visitors -- the final record tally
for the 21-day event -- to thank for an unprecedented event, one that
topped old numbers for revenue as well as attendance.
These numbers prove, without a doubt, one big truth: The Orange
County Fair was more popular and more successful than ever.
No surprise there, though. The fair ran this year with hardly a
glitch -- just the one arrest of a ticket-taker who allegedly was
violating his parol by working around children -- and it brought in
another amazing lineup of musical and entertainment acts that
included the B-52s, Hootie and the Blowfish, Hilary Duff, Dana
Carvey, Beck and LeAnn Rimes. Couple that with the usual draws -- the
outrageous fair food, the businesses hocking their wares, the
agricultural exhibits and the carnival rides and games -- and it is
no wonder that fair officials are expecting to make money this year.
Admission revenue jumped 25% to $4.5 million. Parking proceeds
crept up 6.5% to nearly $1.4 million. Food and alcohol sales topped
$11 million. And fairgoers spent a record amount on the fair's
amusements, putting $5.2 million into the pockets of carnival-ride
contractor Ray Cammack Shows.
But those numbers are only the tangible, bottom-line measure of
the fair. The better markers were the smiles on children's faces; all
the families that were spending time together; the couples, both
young and those reaching their golden anniversaries, strolling
happily through the fair; and the crowds hooting and hollering during
the performances at the Pacific Amphitheatre. These are the
meaningful way to judge just how successful the fair was.
It's fair to say it was one in a million.