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The Daily Tar Heel

N.C. State Fair Sees Decrease in Attendance

But one regular aspect of the fair has been lacking for the past week -- the public.

Attendance at this year's state fair reached 618,557 by Saturday -- far below the 764,951 people that had visited the fair at that point last year.

Last year's fair drew a record crowd of 846,724, but it is doubtful that this year's fair will approach that attendance total.

On Saturday -- typically the busiest day -- 113,450 people visited the fair, but that was 24,000 below last year's turnout for the same day.

Some fairgoers speculated that the combination of a worsening economy, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the recent anthrax outbreaks nationwide has kept the public away.

"I think some people are still afraid to spend time in large, public places," said John Mason of Durham. "But I'm glad so many people have decided to show up tonight and continue to live their lives."

Other fairgoers said North Carolina's worsening economy might be keeping many people from spending money on anything accept necessities.

"It costs $6 to get through the gates and another $5 for a sandwich, not to mention all the rides," said Mark Williams of Raleigh, who attended the fair with his two kids. "I could see how a family could easily spend over $100 here. I don't think some people are willing to do that with the way the economy is."

But some fairgoers -- especially those standing in line for some of the fair's most popular rides -- said they hadn't noticed much of a change in attendance.

"I've been standing in this line for close to an hour," said James White of Cary, who was standing in line for the Fireball, a popular fair ride. "This place is just as packed as it was last year."

Some fairgoers received an unexpected surprise Saturday night when about half the fairgrounds lost power for the night at about 9:35 p.m.

No rides were shut down as a result of the power loss, which stemmed from failed electrical circuits.

Just minutes after the power outage the skies above the fair were lit up with the bright lights of the nightly fireworks show.

The fireworks ended with a deafening barrage of red, white and blue explosions.

"I've seen firework shows dozens of times," said Michael Jones of Raleigh. "But with the events of the last few weeks, this one is just a little more special."

The State & National Editor can be reached at

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