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The "Fair" Numbers: Attendance at Maine's State Fairs

NEWS CENTER Maine looked at attendance trends over the past five years, and found some interesting patterns.

BANGOR (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Maine's State Fairs: the rides, the games, the food, and the furry animals. All activities that could draw a big crowd and money to the local economy. But do they really?

At high noon at the Bangor State Fair Saturday, there were no more than a few dozen people enjoying the festivities.

Where are the crowds of people to ride the Ferris wheel and enjoy the candy apples?

After 30 years running the Bangor State Fair, Mike Dyer has a pretty good idea.

"We always say, if it's a good beach day, it's a bad fair day," says Dyer.

Saturday's only the second day of the fair this year, and Dyer says it's difficult to predict how this year's turnout will compare to years past.

"We expect to do a certain nice, steady level up until the days that we hit the truck and tractor pulls, the wristband days, and the demo derby, and then we expect to see an uptick," adds Dyer.

NEWS CENTER Maine looked at attendance trends over the past five years, and found some interesting patterns.

According to the Maine Department of Agriculture, most of the state's licensed 25 fairs have remained pretty consistent with their attendance numbers over the past five years. Some have even gone up.

However, the Bangor State Fair, Fryeburg Fair, and Springfield Fair are seeing fewer visitors.

In Springfield, they've dropped 5,000 visitors since 2013.

Fryeburg holds the largest fair in the state by far, but lost just under 100,000 visitors between 2014 and 2015, gaining some back by 2017.

In Bangor, the decline is also pretty steady, with a net loss of about 16,000 visitors since 2013.

Maine Department of Agriculture's Melissa Jordan says the weather can play a big role in turnout.

"We've had everything from massive thunderstorms [to] lightening strikes," says Jordan. "When the weather is bad and rainy and stormy, people stay home, and likewise when it's 90-something degrees and hot and humid, people go do other things as well."

Jordan is on the ground at every fair in the state, encouraging people to come learn about agriculture and livestock.

"They're really the big ways that we get to showcase Maine agriculture to the general public," says Jordan of the fairs.

"Year in and year out, you kind of end up just at about the same number, give or take a few thousand or 4,000 or 5,000, depending on what kind of breaks you caught with the weather, how much rain you had or didn't have," says Dyer. "What's going on in the area, how many waterfront concerts there are, how many down east home days down in Grand Lake Stream on this weekend and everything. There's a lot going on. It's Maine in the summertime."

Dyer says we're still early into fair season so there's plenty of time left to pet a cute bunny and win a stuffed bear at one of Maine's state fairs.

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