California State Fair aims to draw bigger crowds with lower prices, earlier start date

Thursday, July 1, 2010

CA State Fair looks to reverse lower attendance

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California State Fair organizers are hoping that reduced prices and an earlier start date will draw bigger crowds after a decade of flagging attendance.

Paid attendance at the fair has been down 46 percent since 2001, when the state fair brought in nearly 850,000 people, organizers told The Sacramento Bee. The venue, Cal Expo, also is facing a $1 million shortfall this year.

To help turn that around, the state fair is opening a month early — July 14 — so it won’t overlap with the start of school, and organizers are cutting food prices and offering discount packages. The basic entrance fee will remain the same at $12 for adults.

So far, the efforts seem to be working: Online ticket sales are up 26 percent over last year.

California’s state fair struggles stand in contrast to many fairs around the country that have seen strong attendance during the economic downturn by offering inexpensive entertainment close to home, said Marla Calico of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions.

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