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Wood County Fair rides out bumpy week

Organizers say attendance on pace with norm

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Ableen Carroll, 4, and mother, Crystal Carroll, of Haskins, Ohio, ride the merry-go-round at the fair in Bowling Green. For some, the fair with its animals, food, and rides is an inexpensive vacation.

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BOWLING GREEN -- Despite a week full of high temperatures and thunderstorms -- as well as a bad economy -- the Wood County Fair attendance is on pace with previous years, organizers said.

The attendance is estimated at 98,500, but those numbers do not include the fair's final day on Monday, said Ashley Vetter, the fair board's director.

In past years, attendance typically hovers around 100,000.

Organizers won't know for the next several weeks whether the fair board made a profit, Mrs. Vetter said.

Most years, the fair board either breaks even or makes a small profit that is reinvested into the fairgrounds in Bowling Green.

"We want to continue the tradition and support agriculture," she said.

The fair, however, wasn't without a hitch.

On Saturday, thunderstorms delayed the Gretchen Wilson concert for four hours, and attendance for the show struggled because of it. The country singer known for her hit "Redneck Woman" didn't start singing until after midnight.

About 1,000 people attended the show even though 2,200 tickets were sold, Mrs. Vetter said.

The fair didn't offer refunds.

"It's the risk you have to take with any outdoor events. … That's why we worked so hard to get the show on," Mrs. Vetter said. "Gretchen Wilson stayed for us and still put on a show for us. … I thought she sounded great."

The bad economy, which can also play a factor in attendance, is two-fold.

Some fair-lovers said they cut back this year. That meant bringing water bottles from home, eating snacks instead of buying full meals, or going to the fair fewer times to save on admission fees, some said. For others, the fair -- full of animals, midway rides, and food-- is cheaper than spending money on a big vacation.

On a recent day, the rows of pigs hardly moved except for an occasional foot twitch in the barnyard. The cows rested in their pens as large fans circulated air around them. It felt like a different world - the cow droppings smelling in the dirt, the muddy ground from animals getting baths before their debuts in front of the livestock judges, the food booths advertising everything fried.

"This is usually one of the highlight of my summer," said Austin Davis, 18, of North Baltimore, who showed hogs. "I always enjoy the fair. It's sort of the signal of the end of summer."

It was worth spending the $45 on fair food before he goes to Ohio State University to study engineering, he said.

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