O.C. Fair sets weekday attendance record

COSTA MESA — The Orange County Fair set a weekday attendance record Wednesday with 55,000 fairgoers, management said Thursday.

Of course, 33,000 of the fun-seekers got in free for having brought two books with them under a special promotion, but that's part of the fair's philosophy these days — to keep pushing the envelope during the week when attendance drops off, said Steve Beazley, president and chief executive of the O.C. Fair and Event Center.

"We're tracking very nicely," he said. "Our attendance is up 15% over last year. I'm going to knock on wood … but we're hoping to have a record year."

Adam Lambert, an "American Idol" finalist, was said to help attendance as well. On Wednesday night, he performed a sold-out show at the Pacific Amphitheatre.

In addition, the fair expects 1 million guests before wrapping up Aug. 15.

If you're wondering how much money 1 million fairgoers generates, Beazley said it comes out to a rough gross of $17 million.

But that doesn't necessarily mean the fair is going to wind up with a surplus.

"Even though we're a state agency," he said, "we don't get any money from the state. So what we make here, stays here. It sounds like a riddle, but basically if we don't make any money, we don't receive any money. We won't know until the end of the fair."

Any revenue that comes in above operational costs, Beazley said, goes back into the investment of the state-owned 150-acre fair property, which is in the midst of a potential purchase by the city of Costa Mesa and Facilities Management West for $96 million.

As of Wednesday, 414,000 people have walked through the gates of the fair, which began July 16.

Beazley said he expects to hit the half-million mark by closing time Friday.

According to Beazley, the first time fair attendance reached 1 million for the first time in 2005, but then in 2006, due to extreme heat, attendance dipped below the threshold.

Attendance peaked in 2007 with 1.09 million guests.

Since 2006, every year has seen 1 million or more.

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