MISSOULA – Newly-released attendance numbers show that the heat may have had some impact on turnout for this year’s Western Montana Fair.
While attendance was off slightly year-over-year, this year’s total still hit the target of 80,000 people and was well above the average for the past several years.
This marked the second year there’s been free admission to the event which fair managers had established to increase overall attendance and make the event more viable for the future.
This year’s numbers show that total fair attendance for the week-long event was 79,889. While that’s an 8% drop from 2017, the number is still 16% higher than the seven-year average.
Fair managers say they are thrilled with this year’s number, saying it shows the concept of free admission is working. Meanwhile, fair sponsorships and carnival ticket pre-sales were up for 2018 with concessions hitting the $500,000 mark.
Managers say hot weather impacted attendance during the day, as temperatures soared to over 100º. For example, the mid-day rodeo attendance was down 14%, but the turnout rebounded during the cooler evening hours.
Fairgrounds staff had made a concerted effort this year to improve shade and other features to help people cool off.