One of the lengthiest Salem Fairs in the 31-year history of the event wrapped-up on Sunday night at the Taliiaferro Complex. Officials say that attendance was down by approximately eight percent this summer, despite occupying 13 days on the calendar.
“Rain was minimal this year, but it cost us a big crowd on our first Friday night when we had to completely close the fairgrounds,” says Carey Harveycutter, Salem Fair Manager. “Our opening day crowd on July 3 was down nearly 40 percent and on several other days the heat and humidity were way up. I also believe closing an hour early each night had an adverse effect on our crowd size and concession sales.”
Despite the drop in estimated attendance, America’s largest free gate fair still welcomed over 300,000 visitors from throughout Virginia’s Blue Ridge and beyond to the Deggeller Attractions Midway between July 3 and July 15.
“Ultimately, we are always happy to provide the folks of Southwest Virginia with an opportunity to come out and enjoy themselves without having to travel very far or spend an arm and a leg for family fun,” says Wendy Delano, Salem’s Director of Civic Facilities. “There are lots of entertainment choices out there these days, and we appreciate each and every person who took the time to attend the fair this July.”
As always, several non-profits benefitted significantly from the fair. Patrons donated 7,000 pounds of non-perishable food to the Salem-Roanoke County Food Pantry and the Salem Animal Shelter received several hundred pounds of pet food from fairgoers. The United Way of the Roanoke Valley once again will receive a donation thanks to an increase in advance ticket sales for the Megapass at local Kroger stores.
The Blue Ribbon exhibits, under the direction of Melissa de Pineda, continue to be an integral part of the fair. Nearly 750 exhibitors competed in the wide variety of categories ranging from youth arts and crafts to baked goods.
The 2019 Salem Fair is set for July 3-14.