Heat, humidity cause attendance at Waukesha County Fair to suffer

Scott Ash
June Craig, 6, of Mukwonago takes a tumble while competing in the Little Farmers Sheep Rodeo this year at the Waukesha County Fair. Both rider and steed emerged unscathed from the brief encounter.
Published on: 8/6/2013

Extreme heat. High dew points. And rain.

It's a weather pattern not uncommon in southeastern Wisconsin this time of year, but it's not what Shari Black and her team at the Waukesha County Fair were hoping for over the course the fair's five-day run in July.

But for the most part, that's what they and fairgoers had to deal with in 2013. And because of it, attendance at the Waukesha County Fair, held annually on the grounds of the Waukesha County Expo grounds, suffered dramatically, resulting in a five-day attendance mark of 88,256.

Black, the fair's executive director, said that number is the lowest since at least 1990. This year's mark is also about 37,000 less than the 125,261 total the fair saw in 2012.

Black had said leading up to the fair that if attendance is around 135,000 "we're doing well."

She won't know how the low mark hurt the fair's financial charts until its fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

With dew points in the low- to mid-70s during the first three days of the fair that put the heat index into the low 100s, Black said those were the least-attended days. Sunday was also negatively impacted, she said, by late-afternoon and evening rain showers that forced that day's concert to be canceled.

"We can control many aspects of our fair, but Mother Nature is one we cannot," Black said. "Really, the only nice day was Saturday."

A positive takeaway, from her perspective, is she said traffic in and out of the fair went much smoother than past years.

This was a result, Black said, of fair officials opening an entrance in the back off Aviation Drive for the final three days of the fair. She said the fair had to communicate with the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department to coordinate the new entrance.

"That helped take the pressure off Gate 1," Black said. "We've had years where people would be waiting an hour and it would be backed up to I-94. We didn't want that, so we decided to work with the county on this.

"This was the first year we implemented this, and I think it solved that problem really well."

Black also said the Team Extreme Motorcycle Trials went well. The bikers performed their tricks during three shows each day from Thursday through Sunday.

"The bleachers were packed for every show," said Black, who added that a new form of entertainment will most likely replace this act next year. "We'll look to probably bring it back, though, in a few years."

While Black was disappointed with the overall attendance total in her 13th year of running the fair, she is happy with those who did come out.

"We are grateful for every person that came out and supported us this year. We want to thank our board members, sponsors and countless volunteers for all of their hard work that went into planning this year's fair."

Official planning for next year's fair will begin in a couple of months.

When Black and her team starts the process for 2014 she said they'll look at responses to surveys that are available on the Fair's website, www.waukeshacountyfair.com. Surveys will be on the site through August.