It was a record-breaking year at Westerner Days.
In fact, three new records were set over the span of the five-day fair that wrapped up on Sunday night.
This year saw the highest total attendance rate in Westerner Days history as 92,689 people attended the Central Alberta summer celebration.
This is nearly 2,000 more than the overall record that was set in 2008.
Previous daily attendance records were also surpassed on both Wednesday and Friday.
A total of 15,410 individuals passed through the gates during the kick-off day, compared to the Wednesday daily record that was last set at 13,193 in 2009.
As for Friday, this year saw a new daily attendance record of 24,302, compared to 22,234 set in 2007.
Friday’s attendance was also only 427 off the highest ever per-day attendance record, which still sits at 24,729 and was set on Saturday in 2008.
It was the first time ever that Erin Gobolos, marketing and sponsorship manager, can recall multiple records being set in one year.
She attributed this year’s success to new facilities and a top-notch entertainment lineup that appealed to a broad range of people.
Good weather and dedicated staff and volunteers helped, too.
“We get a lot of feedback all the time about what people want to see, what they don’t want to see, and we try really hard to make sure we’re producing an event that is going to attract a lot of people,” Gobolos said.
She believed the biggest draw this year was the main stage entertainment, which featured Trooper, two Kraze Birthday Bash dance parties, Marianas Trench and Johnny Reid.
Rush seating for Marianas Trench concert on Friday was another one for the Westerner record books.
People started lining up at about 11:30 a.m. on Friday. By the time doors opened at 7:30 p.m., about 2,000 people were waiting to get in.
“In terms of having that many people in line and trying to get to the front row, we’ve never experienced anything like that before,” Gobolos said.
“People were running. They had actually lost their clothing, their shoes and they kept going,” said Gobolos, who was on the ground level as the crowd of mostly young women bolted for seating in front of the stage.
She said a few people tripped and fell, but the Westerner didn’t hear of any severe injuries. Rush seating hasn’t been an issue before but it may have to change, maybe allowing only a hundred or so people in at a time.
“We would definitely do rush seating again. The majority of our concerts at Western Days are free concerts and we wouldn’t want to ticket them.”
Other key attractions, Gobolos said, included the Sunny Family Fun Zone that was expanded to include an entertainment stage and new rides, the new Artistic Expressions venue and the midway that featured 41 rides including Vertigo, the only new ride at this year’s fair that proved to be very popular.
As pleased as the staff is with results from this year, Gobolos admitted they are starting to wonder how they will top it next year.
“We always say we’d like to do better than we did this year and lets hope we can do that,” she said.
Gobolos also thanked all 230 volunteers and the more than 200 staff, both full time and part time, for all their hard work to make Westerner Days such a success.
Westerner Days winners
There were a couple of big winners at this year’s Westerner Days.
Harvey Gillett won the His and Hers Harley-Davidson Motorcycles raffle prize presented by Kinsmen/Kinette Club of Red Deer. The package includes a 2009 Road Glide motorcycle and a 2009 Sportster motorcycle.
Robert Jegou of Red Deer took home the $10,000 prize in the Central Alberta Lions Club Raffle on Sunday. Four additional prizes worth $250 were awarded throughout the fair.
And businesses World Financial Group, Mooney Insurance and London Drugs raised a total of $15,246 for a variety of charities.