LOUISVILLE, KY -- The 104th edition of the fair begins Thursday and runs through Aug. 24, amid fears the high gasoline prices and resulting increased costs may curtail crowds after low attendance last year.
The Louisville Courier-Journal, in its Sunday edition, reports attendance last year was 589,364, down about 25,000 from the previous year. Fair officials mostly blame hot weather -- highs were in the mid- to upper 90s on five of 11 days. Officials told the newspaper that high gasoline prices then probably contributed too.
Harold Workman, president of the fair board, hopes high energy costs won't cut into attendance this year. While some Kentuckians may stay home because of the price of gasoline, others may want to vacation close to home and view the fair as a relatively inexpensive option, he told the C-J.
This year's fair offers some new twists. The cost of parking is up a dollar, to $6. In addition, the cost of individual ride tickets has gone from $1 to $1.25, with most of the nearly 100 rides requiring three to six tickets.
Mike Williams, CEO of North American Midway Entertainment, the Mississippi-based "thrillway" operator, requested the increase "in light of the tremendous increase in fuel and transportation expenses we are experiencing."
But Workman noted that discounted ride tickets are available at Kroger through Wednesday and on several fair "wristband days."The rides also will start two hours earlier, at 2 p.m., on weekdays, Workman told the newspaper.
Workman considers the fair concert lineup strong, with a mix of music genres on many nights. "We have a good (artist) lineup, and we are doing it a little different," Workman said. He noted, for instance, that ZZ Top is opening for Brooks & Dunn, and Jewel is performing in front of Brad Paisley, the newspaper reports.
Another concession to concert-goers is that the cost of tickets for the four paid concerts at Freedom Hall ranges from $31 to $49; last year tickets for several of the concerts cost $60.
There is a free concert nearly every night -- with the talent including Joan Jett, the Oak Ridge Boys, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Village People and Travis Tritt -- in old Cardinal Stadium, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal.
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