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Franklin Co. Fair attendance down

August 22, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Not much has changed in the last 103 years of the Franklin County fair, including attendance, which organizers say is what it is.

The 2009 fair suffered significant losses from the state budget impasse and recessed economy and with it, decreased attendance.

Attendance at the August fair always has yo-yoed, fair President Robert Eckstine said.

"Some years, it is up, some years, it is down," he said. "We just try to do our best to bring people out."

Unable to fund all of the monetary prizes for exhibits, the attendance of participants also waned, Eckstine said.

With livestock exhibitions limited to cattle, declines in the dairy and beef industries also have been felt by the fair.

"Its been a tough year for dairy farmers," Eckstine said.

"Our dairy competitions dwindle a bit each year, and this year was no different," Eckstine said.

Eckstine said the fair is struggling to make ends meet, and even though fewer people walked through the gates than in 2008, it was not a record low year. In 2007, even fewer people attended, he said.

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The fairgrounds at the Chambersburg Rod and Gun Club on Warm Spring Road only can accommodate about 3,500 people, Eckstine said.

Many factors beyond the economy kept attendance well below that threshold, he said.

Weather always is a major culprit.

Bethany Crouse, 17, of Chambersburg, spent the last week at the fair selling concessions, just as she has done for many years.

Bethany said the combination of heat, rain and stifling humidity kept many people home.

"People tend to stay home when it is hot or when it rains," she said. "It was both and rainy this year."

While the fair has activities through the week starting as early as 9 a.m., the crowd does not arrive until the evening and weekend, Bethany said.

Those who do come to the fair come for their own reasons.

Rhonda Koppenhaver of Greencastle, Pa., brings her daughter each year for the carnival games and rides.

Stanley Stratton of Chambersburg said he and his wife, Charlotte, come each year for the food.

"The food is excellent," Charlotte Stratton said.

"The fair is a quality fair," Stanley Stratton said. "There are a lot of people working hard to keep it going."

Eckstine said he is not giving up on the event any time soon.

"People ask if we are going to close the fair and just walk away forever," he said. "We have fought a hard fight to keep the fair going and I am not going to walk away now. There will be a fair next year."

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