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Published July 20 2010

Too much fun at four area fairs?

People looking for a fun time at the fair had plenty of choices last week in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and it’s expected to show up in the Red River Valley Fair’s attendance figures.

An official headcount for the Red River Valley Fair that ended Sunday won’t be available until today or Wednesday, but fair General Manager Bryan Schulz said it appeared attendance was down from last year’s total of about 125,000.

“Just from looking at it, I don’t know that we’re going to do as well as we did last year,” he said. “I don’t know what the reason is behind it.”

Weather played a part, he said. Strong winds socked the fair early Wednesday, causing the midway to open four hours late so rides could be inspected for safety. The threat of storms also likely hurt attendance at the monster truck show Saturday night, he said.

Another probable factor was the abundance of entertainment options in the area last weekend, as Fargo’s Downtown Street Fair and the Clay County Fair both competed with the Red River Valley Fair for people. Wilkin County also hosted its fair in Breckenridge, Minn.

“I think it obviously will be a little hindrance to (attendance),” Schulz said of the competition.

Stephanie Holland, Street Fair coordinator for the Downtown Community Partnership, said she sees the simultaneous fairs as a positive thing for that event.

“On Saturday, we get even more people coming to our event because they can hit two or three different things,” she said.

The Red River Valley Fair moved from June to July in 2009 when it switched vendors from the Mighty Thomas Carnival to Murphy Brothers Exposition, chosen because it offers more extreme rides to attract a younger demographic, Schulz said.

Because of Murphy Brothers’ routing schedule – the vendor goes straight from West Fargo to the North Dakota State Fair in Minot – the fair can’t switch dates now, he said.

The fair’s nine-day run was extended by one day on Sunday when Murphy Brothers leased the fairgrounds for the day and offered free admission and a $15 pass for rides to show its appreciation to the public, Schulz said.

Attendance for the fair’s concerts was “pretty good” this year, ranging from about 3,500 to 9,000-plus for the ’80s tribute band Hairball, he said.

As for the Downtown Street Fair, Holland estimated it drew roughly 150,000 people – not as many as last year’s “phenomenal” attendance of 170,000, but still a strong showing. Hot weather Friday hurt attendance, but Saturday saw heavy foot traffic, she said.

The Clay County Fair has free admission and doesn’t take attendance, but Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said it “seemed like it was pretty average.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528