MISSOULA – A lot of people stopped by this year’s Western Montana Fair, and the proof is in the numbers.
Organizers report that for the first time in recent years, attendance topped 100,000, breaking the record set in 2021.
The numbers also show that pre-sale tickets for the carnival sold out the day before the fair and contributed to a 32% increase in gross sales.
Sales for night shows -- including the Missoula Stampede and Lords of Dirt – once again broke records, increasing 14% from last year. Additionally, the average attendance for the night shows increased by 1,000 seats each night over pre-pandemic numbers.
Food concession sales jumped 11% over last year’s record-setting pace while bar concessions increased as well and were nearly double pre-pandemic sales for the second year in a row.
There were also higher exhibit numbers and the 4-H and FFA programs boosted this year’s sales to $739,000, a nearly $100,000 increase over last year’s total. The new Fur & Feather Silent Auction added this year also raised $1,000 for open-class poultry exhibitors.
“A lot of fairs across the country saw big numbers in 2021, but then experienced a drop to pre-COVID numbers this summer,” said Missoula County Fairgrounds events and operations manager Billie Ayers. “We expected to see a similar slow-down, so we are pleasantly surprised we’ve had two consecutive record-breaking years now for the Western Montana Fair.”
The 2023 Western Montana Fair is set to run from Aug. 9 until Aug. 13. The theme, “The Butterfly Effect,” will celebrate the opening of the Rocky Mountain Gardens and Exploration Center at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.