State Fair visits at pre-pandemic levels - Albuquerque Journal

State Fair visits at pre-pandemic levels

Workers with Reithoffer Shows put together the Ferris wheel in preparation for the New Mexico State Fair that was held on September 7 at Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque. The New Mexico State Fair ran from Sept. 8 through the 18th. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The 2022 New Mexico State Fair recorded 475,318 visits, making it the third best-attended fair since 2012, when the fair went from a 17-day format to an 11-day schedule.

How that translates to revenue won’t be known until mid- to late-November after all the bills have been paid and final numbers are tallied, said State Fair General Manager Dan Mourning. Still, he was confident that “revenue was up,” adding that vendors of liquor, food and merchandise all reported booming sales throughout the fair.

Last year, visitors were required to present vaccine cards and wear masks at indoor exhibits. Those measures, Mourning said, were likely a factor in the disappointing attendance of 275,467, a more than 41% decrease from the 2019 attendance of 472,415. The 2020 fair was canceled because of COVID.

This year, “it wasn’t just the sheer volume of numbers that were here on the campus, it was how long they stayed,” Mourning said. “I can’t recall a fair where we couldn’t turn the parking lots over. People just didn’t leave, staying five, six hours or more. Vendors on the food court and on the midway were selling until 11 p.m. or 11:30 p.m. We had to tell people to go home and come back tomorrow.”

Most buildings and exhibits closed at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and at 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The midway usually closed down by 10:30 p.m., he said.

Another sign of returning crowds was the fair’s first educational cannabis exhibit, “Discovering Cannabis,” which attracted more than 50,000 over-21 visitors, Mourning said.

After a two-year pandemic-caused hiatus, 431 4-H and FFA exhibitors returned to the State Fair, bringing with them more than 2,000 entries. The Junior Livestock Sale generated $610,425, an increase over 2019’s sale of $524,150.

“We saw a level of enthusiasm for the fair that we’ve missed, and it was so great to see all of the families, exhibitors and talent return in such a big way,” Mourning said. “It was just remarkable, that energy and people feeling that they didn’t want to leave. Staff and management felt that, too.”

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