U.P. State Fair numbers up over 2016, best year ever

According to organizers of the Upper Peninsula State Fair, attendence this year went up 17 percent, setting a record in their history with an estimated attendence of 87,750 fairgoers. (Journal photo by Justin Marietti)

ESCANABA — The Upper Peninsula State Fair saw a dramatic increase in attendance this year, according to fair organizers, as ticket sales were up 17 percent over 2016.

Delta Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vickie Micheau said Thursday that this year’s estimated attendance at the fair was a record 87,750. The previous record year was 2015 at 83,600. Fair attendance in 2016 was slightly more than 75,000.

The big difference was weather, organizers said. Heavy rains and flooding suppressed attendance on the Saturday of fair week in 2016. This year, sunshine attracted a record crowd Saturday.

Micheau said attendance was up each day of fair week except Thursday and Sunday.

“We didn’t have great weather Monday night. It did rain a little,” Micheau said in a press release. “We hit a record for all-time gate attendance on Monday and, of course, Saturday was a phenomenal day with record attendance.”

The fair was held Aug. 14-20 in Escanaba.

Attendance numbers were based on tickets purchased or distributed in advance of fair week to vendors, volunteers, media, sponsors and employees, as well as tickets purchased at the gate during the fair. Gate receipts Saturday were $106,321 compared to $24,589 in 2016. Friday saw a 42 percent increase in ticket sales at $67,740 compared to $47,643 in 2016.

Attendance dropped 56.4 percent on Thursday compared to 2016’s numbers. Yet, 479 veterans were able to attend the fair that day as part of Honored Citizens Day.

Sunday’s attendance was down 31 percent from last year. Micheau said that was probably because people were able to attend the fair on Saturday this year because of the better weather.

Gate receipts totaled $376,475, an increase of more than $55,000.

Skerbeck Entertainment Group reached a company record high with a 12.5 percent increase in sales.

“The Skerbeck Entertainment Group has been a fabulous partner,” Micheau said. “They do a wonderful job with the carnival on the midway and they hit an all-time company record for any fair, any festival with this fair.”

The best attended grandstand shows, Micheau said, were LoCash on Thursday and Sawyer Brown on Saturday. New midway entertainment also attracted fair goers but Micheau said other regular activities were also popular this year.

“The part that I think people are taking notice of is once they come through the gate, is that there are so many other things to do,” she said.

The Junior Market Livestock Auction sale was down this year in part because there were fewer entries and a special charitable giving auction was not held. Total sales were $446,640, down from $510,000 in 2016.

The auction included 113 hogs, 26 lambs, 8 market goats and 66 steers.

Representatives from all 15 counties in the Upper Peninsula and the Hannahville Indian Community operate the fair and the fairgrounds through the U.P. State Fair Authority. The Delta Chamber of Commerce is the managing organization.

Micheau said they are already making plans for 2018, with the fair scheduled for Aug. 13-19.