The Delaware State Fair proved to be a true Summer Destination as fair officials closed the book on the 99th Annual Delaware State Fair. The Delaware State Fair celebrated popular summer traditions throughout all ten fun-filled days. Gone was the heat that plagued so many previous fairs and replaced by record rainfall. All in all, the weather proved to be a challenge as when the Fair transitioned from 2 beautiful weather days upon opening on Thursday July 19th to record rains that started on Saturday July 21st and continued off and on until last weekend when the weather broke for the better drawing record attendance the last day of fair.
The 2018 Delaware State Fair enjoyed strong attendance with 291,316 fairgoers visiting the fairgrounds in Harrington, DE. Overall attendance saw a 2% increase over last year’s attendance numbers. With almost 292,000 visitors attending the 2018 Delaware State Fair, and a few records being set, organizers pronounced the 99th annual Delaware State Fair another great success.
Compared to last year when the Fair was faced with the traditional summertime heat blast mixed with a few unseasonably cool weather nights, the 2018 Fair took on a first time ever meteorological challenge. Fair General Manager commented, “The famous American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said: ‘Into every Fair some rain must fall’. Well, not a direct quote because Mr. Wadsworth was speaking euphemistically about some rain falling in everyone’s life, this year’s Fair experienced record setting rainfall totals of over 6” of rain spread over 6 of the 10 days that forced the carnival not to open on Saturday July 21th, the Fair to close its commercial operations early that same day and turned all of our reliable parking lots in treacherous mud.”
Despite the six days of rain, the crowds strategically planned their fair visits in between the rain drops and found their way to help increase the fair attendance over 2017. On Saturday July 28th, the Fair admitted a record setting 48,653 patrons, the best in 99 years. Similarly, the carnival recorded its best single day’s receipts in carnival related ride activity.
The start of the official Delaware Lottery Summer Concert series at the M&T Bank Grandstand entertainment schedule kicked off with the largest crowd as Toby Keith with Delaware’s on Jimmie Allen took the stage.
Assistant General Manager and Director of Marketing Danny Aguilar commented, “The blend of great entertainment offered in and outside of the M&T Bank Grandstand continued to show why the Delaware State Fair, after 99 years, is consistently considered to be one of the best summer destinations for great entertainment on Delmarva. We continue to offer unique entertainment opportunities with great experiences for our patrons like VIP packages, Beer & Wine Gardens, live entertainment throughout the grounds, amazing food, shopping and entertainment for kids of all ages.”
Brett Eldredge, a Craft Beer Festival, Chris Young, Jeff Dunham, Lauren Daigle, a Southern Rock package featuring the Outlaws, Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels Band and Travis Tritt, a Monster Truck & FMX Show and a sold out Demolition Derby all helped to deliver a strong entertainment lineup enjoyed by almost 45,000 fans from all over the peninsula.
The Fair played host to a record 69 corporate sponsors this year. According to Danny Aguilar, “Continued support provided by sponsors allows the Fair to provide our patrons with great entertainment and summertime memories”.
On the carnival side, The Wade Shows provided 56 rides including 5 super-spectacular class rides such as The Big Wheel, the RC-48 steel roller coaster and Delusion. The Carnival provided a great blend of rides and games of chance for the adults and kids of all ages.
It’s always of great importance for Fair officials to continue to ensure a strong balance of grounds entertainment and agriculturally minded entertainment and exhibits. The Delaware FFA organization along with the fair unveiled a new Ag Education area called the FFA Ag-Venture based on the fundamental agricultural principles that the John Curtis Sr Barnyard supported. The FFA Ag-Venture area was developed to help introduce the world of livestock and agriculture to individuals visiting the Fair, most of who were not raised on or ever-set foot on a farm.
Another Ag related program was the Antique Machinery Showcase on Saturday, July 21st which featured agricultural craft demonstrations and live bluegrass music from the group Flatland Drive. Other Ag themed entertainment included the antique tractor display, horse pull competition, antique tractor pull, livestock shows and the ever-popular interactive baby chick display sponsored by Allen Harim.
This year’s new grounds attractions included a merging of the Plaza and the Free Entertainment Tent to create the brand new Hertrich Plaza. The Hertrich Plaza featured an upgraded entertainment stage, sound and lights all designed to showcase two amazingly popular bands “Redhead Express” and “Vocal Trash”. Both bands packed the plaza with nightly performances starting at 6:00pm. “Yoga with Goats” made its debut at The Delaware State Fair. Dozens of small pygmy goats and yoga participants mixed it up to the delight of hundreds of observers. GM Bill DiMondi quipped: “It’s highly unusual for the worlds of entertainment, physical fitness and livestock to become so intertwined as Yoga with Goats”. Other grounds entertainment included Circus Hollywood presented by Discover Bank, racing pigs, a brand new Camel Show, a menagerie of exotic animals including Twiggs, the giraffe, and the popular Jurassic Dinosaur Adventure area. “In all, over the ten days of fair, patrons were treated to over 1,100 hours of programmed entertainment which was provided at no additional cost beyond gate admission, not to mention all of the competition (competitive exhibits and livestock) and judging including the annual Livestock Extravaganza” said Assistant GM Aguilar.
Livestock, 4-H, FFA and other forms of competitive exhibits dominated the fairgrounds once again. The Fair received and processed over 41,000 entries this year coming from 3,089 exhibitors. General Manager DiMondi with a chuckle remarked: “With this year’s rainfall coupled with the huge animal population, we almost had to develop our own version of Noah’s Ark”.
The Junior Livestock Auction, which represents the culmination of a junior exhibitor’s full year of hard work and dedication, completes an important early agribusiness education program for many of our livestock exhibitors. This year, the auction experienced another strong year as 125 animals were sold for slightly less than $198,000 that was distributed to junior exhibitors who owned the top placing junior market animals.
“This year’s fair will certainly go down as a fair to remember as the weather both good and bad played a crucial role in our success this year. As we reflect back on another successful fair, I’m always thankful of the collective hard work of our volunteers, Board members, & staff. We are already hard at work getting ready for next year’s Centennial Celebration,” commented the President of the Delaware State Fair Board of Directors Ron Draper.
The Fair dates for the 100th annual Delaware State Fair in 2019 are Thursday July 18, 2019 through Saturday July 27, 2019.