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100,000 — it’s a breakthrough milestone that points to the continued vitality of Red Deer, and the surrounding area for that matter.
Or at least it points to the fact that everyone loves the fair!
On Sunday, the 2012 Westerner Days surpassed the 100,000 attendance mark, hitting an all-time record of 102,665, compared with the previous record of 93,965, set just last year.
Based on last year’s figures, Westerner Days would have injected at least $7 million into the city’s economy over its five-day run, which makes it second economically in annual events only to Agri-Trade, which brings about double that amount (people really love those great big combines and tractors).
One day soon the City of Red Deer itself will surpass the 100,000 population mark. Today we’re zeroing in on the 95,000 mark. Things have slowed a bit since those hairy boom days a few years back, but steady healthy growth in the city continues.
Westerner Days is indicative of this, and when it is in tandem with terrific weather as it was this year, success is guaranteed.
Hot off the heels of the 10-day centennial edition of the Calgary Stampede, which set its own record attendance this year at over 1.4 million, it goes to show that there’s a want for something similar locally, even if you do get five-bucked to death — deep-fried Oreo $5, $5 for a corn dog, $5 for those addicting miniature doughnuts that fail every trans fat test out there.
The best deal, of course, has to be the Ticket To Ride all day. The $30 includes admission and all the rides your stomach can handle.
Overall, it’s always somewhat surprising that there is a general mentality that accepts that going to the fair we should expect to pay too much for what we get, especially the food, never mind one of the few things that isn’t $5 — the $6 parking fee.
And then there’s The Hook. This one is aimed specifically at those people on a date, or anyone else a little more susceptible to trying to impress. How many dollars can one person spend trying to win that big stuffed animal for their sweetums? Fortunately, there are always a few bank machines close by.
The fair — that time of year when we toss out common sense and have crazy fun, whatever the cost.
It’s a credit to the organizers of Westerner Days that they broke a record this year, but not a licence to stand pat and say they’ve got the perfect recipe for Westerner Days now and tomorrow.
The kickoff parade remains a work in progress. It could be better.
The entertainment could be stronger. Remember, we just had Elton John here recently. While that was an enigma, Westerner Days should be able to attract one really big name.
All in all, though, the organizers and volunteers for the 121st version of Westerner Days have got a lot of things right, and hats off to them.
One thing about the fair, no matter what, the formula doesn’t really change all that much.
You’ve got the vomit rides, the rough-around-the-edges carnies, the sore feet on hot pavement, the cranky kids, the too-few places to sit, the incessant noise, the bathroom lineups, the too-high prices for almost everything, the unhealthy food fare.
Still, incredibly, everyone goes home remarking what fun they had.
When the 200,000 attendance milestone is reached, they will still be saying that.
Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by phone at 403-314-4332, email at email@example.com and on Twitter @maryannbarr1