Fair could break all-time record

If Orange County Fair attendance continues on pace this weekend, more people would have visited the fair by Saturday's closing than ever before with today's visitors just piling on the record, fair president and CEO Steve Beazley said.

The fair had 1,048,600 visitors by Friday's closing, not far from the all-time record of 1.09 million with Saturday and today to go. The weekday attendance record was also broken this year, with 55,000 people visiting the fair on July 28, a Wednesday.

Beazley credited the weather, which has been friend and foe in the past.

"We can't deny that the weather has just been terrific," he said. "This has been one of the best weather patterns I can ever remember."

After reaching 1 million visitors for the first time in 2005, fair attendance in 2006 dropped because extreme summer heat kept folks out of the sun, Beazley reasoned. The very next year, 1,090,653 people visited the fair, setting the record.

He estimated the annual event will gross about $17 million in profits. Even though it's a state fair, it doesn't receive state funding so the revenue is recycled back into the fair, he said.

The fairgrounds' uncertain future was a call to action for some, Beazley said.

"I've had people say 'I'm going this year in case it's the last year,'" he said. "The uncertainty of the sale made people more eager to check it out just in case."

Gov. Schwarzenegger opted to put the fairgrounds up for sale last year to help balance the budget. After bids came in far below state officials' hopes, Costa Mesa teamed up with Newport Beach-based real estate company Facilities Management West to buy the land for $96 million.

City and state officials are still working on approving the deal.

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