This year's fair was a smash hit

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.

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