CROWN POINT — Thanks to the weather roller coaster ride, attendance at the 166th annual Lake County Fair has dropped compared to the past four years.
“The heat is really not doing us any good or the rain, but it is what it is,” said Arlene Marcinek, secretary for the fair.
As of Tuesday evening, the official count was 89,000 visitors, Marcinek said on Wednesday, the halfway point in the fair. The fair continues through Sunday.
Annually, the Lake County Fair typically draws more than 200,000 visitors during its 10-day run, she noted.
“We had 12,104 people yesterday,” Marcinek said about Tuesday’s fair attendance on a day with storms that swept through the area.
In fact, Tuesday’s rain grounded the hot air balloon rides, a new event at the fair offered by Midwest Balloon Rides from Fishers, Indiana.
“The weather has certainly dampened things down,” Marcinek said. “Some years we’ve had rain or heat, but our numbers are definitely down compared to the last four years.”
Wednesday’s weather forecast called for “spotty showers,” but Marcinek said the rain was so heavy on U.S. 231 during her morning drive in to the fairgrounds that she couldn’t see the road.
“But the sun’s back out now. People are walking around. The rides are going,” she said Wednesday afternoon.
“I hope we miss more 'spotty showers',” Marcinek chuckled.
Historically, weather has played a major role in both attendance and events planned at the Lake County Fair.
In 2015, for example, a perfect storm of events contributed to a decrease in attendance.
More than an inch of rain soaked the fairgrounds on Aug. 15, starting in the afternoon. That second Saturday is usually the fair’s biggest day, Marcinek said in a Times article published on Aug. 19.
The rainfall affected attendance and caused safety concerns, she said in 2015.
“We had to cancel the Kids’ Power Wheels and the Demolition Derby because the track was too muddy,” she said. “In the arena, we canceled nine classes in the Western Horse Show on Saturday.”
On Sunday morning, the last day of the 163rd annual fair, crews worked to make certain the fairgrounds were repaired and safe for visitors and exhibitors alike, Marcinek said.
By contrast, the 1914 Lake County Fair saw perfect weather on Sept. 13, according to The Times archives.
“Aided by the weatherman who lavished an ideal day upon Lake County yesterday, Lake County Fair attendance records were broken and badly bent as more than 6,000 people from all over Lake and Porter counties attended,” according to a news article published nearly 104 years ago.