Attendance slumps for 2014 Illinois State Fair

By Alex Davis |, Matt Porter |

Published 08/15 2014 10:16PM

Updated 08/18 2014 05:34PM

Update: 5:06 pm, 8/18/14, Monday
SPRINGFIELD -- Numbers at the State Fair were down. There were fewer visitors this year than last. A nine-percent dip in attendance is being blamed on poor, rainy weather. To put it in perspective, last year 854,000 people went through the last Saturday of the fair. This year it was 773,000.
Original: 10:16 pm, 8/15/14, Friday
SPRINGFIELD -- Bad weather chilled hopes of another record breaking summer at the fair, but organizers hope another strong weekend will salvage attendance numbers for 2014.

For vendor David Stann, owner of Erma’s Sweet Rolls, it's been a sour week.

"We got off to a rough start this year, had a lot of rain,” Stann said.

The soggy start cancelled the annual parade and a day of horse racing tightening Stann's belt.

With one weekend left, he said he still hasn’t made even.

"We had a very short window to make our money,” Stann said. “It’s very important we have a good fair for parties considered and concerned.”

For fair manager Amy Bliefnick, she said, despite five straight rainy days, the fair is only six percent down from the same point last year.

"I think that speaks really highly of the fair and all of the people who come and want to support the Illinois State Fair,” Bliefnick said.

The fair is well short of last year’s record-setting crowd of about 960,000.

Bliefnick said, even if the fair doesn’t meet its financial goals, 600,000 visitors bring a huge economic boost.

"There's an $87 million impact to the city and the State of Illinois."

"Despite hosting Grammy award-winning artists, including Steely Dan and Robin Thicke, there have been plenty of seats for many of the concerts. Florida Georgia Line played to the second largest crowd ever at 15,204 people, but few other concerts made it past 6,000.

But headliners aren't the big draw for many state fair devotees. Most say they are more interested in the culinary artists.

"We just like the food, walk around, see people,” said Bonnie Mueller, of Chapin.

Dick Romer has been to the fair five times and none of them were for the grandstand shows.

"I'm coming here tonight. I got a bite to eat and I'm going to watch the horse show for two hours and go home,” Romer said. “The last time I came, I went to the craft barn and show and other things."

For Stann, he believes in another good weekend.

"I got faith in the Illinois people,” Stann said. “Illinois people are good people, baby. They come up the fair, trust me, they'll be here, they'll be here."

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