Nearly 70,000 visit fair in Bangor

Posted Aug. 10, 2009, at 9:15 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Paid attendance for the 10-day Bangor State Fair, which wrapped up on Sunday, reached nearly 70,000, an increase of about 60 percent over the rain-soaked fair of 2008.

Bass Park Director Mike Dyer said the weather this year could not have been better, but he also gave credit to the city’s switch to a $10 flat-fee admission, something the fair hadn’t tried since 1993.

“We were hoping for about 70,000, so we just about met expectations,” he said Tuesday. “I think by Sunday, though, everybody was faired-out.”

A sampling of comments from the fair’s own Facebook page and from the Bangor Daily News Web site revealed that fairgoers either loved or hated the fair — nothing in between.

“This honestly was the worst fair I’ve ever been to in my entire life,” wrote one commenter to the BDN. “I paid my $10 expecting to get on a ride. Nope, lines that take an hour. So I didn’t ride any rides.”

The next comment was the opposite.

“Best fair I’ve ever been to. Rode rides for four days straight. Great entertainment and food. My wife and I loved it.”

Dyer acknowledged that not everyone is going to agree with the change in price, but he said most of the comments were encouraging.

Bangor contracts with Fiesta Shows, a New Hampshire-based company, to put on the state fair each year. Profit from the fair is split between the city and Fiesta, which means each side got about $350,000 minus expenses, which will not be broken down for several weeks.

While no hard numbers were available to support it, Dyer said the food and game vendors for Fiesta Shows were ecstatic about sales.

“Most had come off a really tough summer, so I think this was a breath of fresh air for them,” he said.

City councilors voted earlier this year to switch the fare structure to a flat fee. In previous years, patrons would pay between $3 and $7, depending on age, but that wouldn’t include rides.

Before 2009, the five-year average attendance was 59,000, but last year only 42,000 customers attended. The biggest day for this year’s fair was Saturday, Aug. 1, when an estimated 15,000 patrons visited.

Dyer said the biggest discussions that arose out of this year’s fair were whether organizers should continue to allow smoking on the midway. Another complaint was the discontinuation of the popular demolition derby.

Overall, though, Dyer said the fair was a pleasant surprise and one the city hopes to build on for the coming years.

“Once the dust settles, we’ll take a look at the bottom line but there seems to be a compelling argument to keep this [fare] structure,” he said.

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