Admission is $5 for the fair, which continues through Aug. 24 at the Leslie Road fairgrounds.
MEADVILLE — The Crawford County Fair might be a little easier on your wallet this year.
The fair opens Saturday and continues through Aug. 24 at the West Mead Township fairgrounds. Daily admission is $5, down from $8 in recent years.
"Back in 2013 (for the 2014 fair), we raised the gate fee to $8 and included rides, and there was a little bit of a backlash to that," said Crawford County Fair Board Vice President George Deshner. "A lot of people said they don't come to the fair to ride rides, and that year our paid attendance dropped significantly."
With attendance as high as 125,000 in past years, the numbers had dropped to about 70,000 in 2013 and to 65,000 in 2014 when the admission fee increased. And numbers continued to decline. About 58,000 people went to the fair last year, Deshner said.
"Our thought was that people would get used to the price and attendance would come back up, but that never happened. Attendance continued to drop through last year," Deshner said.
The lower admission price is meant to reverse that trend.
"We're hoping that by taking rides off the gate admission and bringing admission back to $5, that will bring a lot of people back to the fairgrounds for the fair," Deshner said.
Rides this year are priced separately, at $10 per day. Rides also were priced separately in 2018, at $5, in addition to the $8 admission fee.
The slightly higher combined cost this year is still a good deal, Deshner said. For $15, visitors can take in almost everything on the fairgrounds and ride as many rides as they like, he said.
"You can ride any ride for $10 all day, from early afternoon to 11 at night. And we have more and bigger rides," he said.
North Carolina-based Powers & Thomas Midway Entertainment provided thrill rides at the fair for the first time a year ago and returns this year with five more rides. The rides are set up along a new midway between Gate 1, on Dickson Road, and Home Show Building 1.
Kiddie rides remain on the main midway near the fair grandstand.
Other fair attractions include concerts by Kane Brown with special guest Seaforth on Wednesday and the Newsboys with special guests Mac Powell and The Family Reunion on Thursday. Tickets for both concerts are on sale online.
Free attractions include the Rhinestone Roper wild west show, Ninja Experience and Swifty Swine Racing Pigs, who will compete three times daily for an Oreo cookie prize.
Also free are harness racing, performances by local musicians, a professional wrestling show and square dancing.
For additional fees, fairgoers can ride a mechanical bull or take in truck and tractor pulls, an extreme sports stunts show or a demolition derby. Kids can take on the Eliminator, a kind of moving and changing obstacle course.
Those and other fair attractions are an important economic driver for the region, said Juanita Hampton, executive director of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"The fair is one of the oldest agricultural fairs east of the Mississippi, and it's absolutely huge for our area," Hampton said. "People come to see the acts and the exhibits and enjoy the rides. Major music artists alone each year attract a lot of visitors from out of town. And that's very important to our restaurants, our gas stations and other businesses. The fair has a tremendous economic impact on the entire area."
Livestock and home arts exhibits again are a fair mainstay. And with more entries this year than last, there will be exhibits, judging, demonstrations and competitions throughout the eight-day fair.
"Exhibit-wise, we hold our own down here," Deshner said. "We've certainly seen the effects of the declining number of dairy farms in Pennsylvania, but overall, across all departments, we're up 1,000 exhibitors over last year."
Part of the reason for that, Deshner said, is the fair's reputation.
"We are the largest agricultural county fair in the state of Pennsylvania," he said. "Places like York and Bloomsburg have huge fairs, but they're more commercial than agricultural."
Valerie Myers can be reached at 878-1913 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNmyers.
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