Iowa State Fair breaks attendance record set last year

DES MOINES — A spokeswoman for the Iowa State Fair says the 2019 fair that ended Sunday broke the attendance record set last year by around 40,000.

“It was a combination of weather, new foods to try, new daytime entertainment and it maybe even had a little to do with our soapbox attendance as well,” according to fair spokeswoman Mindy Williamson.

The soapbox featured more then 20 presidential candidates who state their case. The fair saw attendance mark of 1,170,398 people during the 11-day run.

The Iowa State Fair has seen temperatures in past years reach into the 90s with triple-digit heat indexes — but those weren’t around this year– and things were mostly dry.  She says they had moderate temperature and just one evening of rain and just a few drizzles on the opening day of the fair.

The grandstand used to hold a maximum of around 10,000 people until it was remodeled two years ago and Williamson says they benefited from that increased capacity. “This year we had those shows reaching 13, 14, 15 and with Slipknot over 17,000 — which never would have been a reality in our old grandstand,” according to Williamson.

She says food vendors could tell early on that attendance was up. “The first part of the fair through that first weekend they were seeing some great and busy days for them,” Williamson says. She says it depends on the foods they have and if you have one of the 50 new foods, it bumps up the business.

She says some basic improvement they’ve been making to help people get around the fairgrounds also helps. “Renovations as far as better sidewalks, more services and restrooms, those sorts of things, that’s what we look for and that’s why we’ve been over a million since 2002,” Williamson says. The first Saturday of the fair saw the largest attendance at 122,111 and the last Saturday was not far behind at 119,276.  The opening day and the first Monday where the only two days where they didn’t see attendance reach more than 100-thousand for the day.

Williamson says they will review everything as they get ready for next August. “In marketing we start working on next year’s theme even before this year’s fair even happens. So, we are already considering what needs to happen,” Williamson says.

They will also go through and audit the numbers to see if they match up to the preliminary attendance figures. Williamson says the numbers are usually pretty close