Midweek rain, downtown events blamed for drop in attendance at 11-day event.
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Among the last-chance visitors to the Utah State Fair's closing day Sunday, there was one latecomer that fair regulars had been missing for most of the week: The sun.
The weather at the 158th annual fair in Salt Lake City was "either excellent or rainy there was no in-between," said Randy Cabral, a comic juggler who performed at the gazebo stage during the fair's 11-day run.
"The rain hurt us, but that's common," said vendor Carl Johnson, owner of Plaque It Up, a sports-memorabilia business from Boise, Idaho. Johnson did say the crowds Sunday, when the weather was sunny and in the mid-70s, were an improvement.
"They say attendance was down 25 percent," said Mel Peat, manager of the Walk on Water ride, which marked its second year at the fair.
Attendance estimates were not available from fair administrators Sunday. Last Thursday, vendors had told a Salt Lake Tribune reporter that weather and competition from other events such as the Greek Festival and Salt Lake Comic Con the previous weekend had meant smaller fair crowds.
Sunday, though, the crowds were abundant, eager for one last look at the cows, or to take one last ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl, or to consume one last deep-fried Twinkie.
The audiences, Cabral said, "have been great, except for the times when it's been downpouring."
Cabral, performing for his fifth year at the fair, said the experience of holding a mobile audience is different than the corporate and cruise-ship gigs he usually does. "It's like busking, without passing the hat," he said.
Peat's Walk on Water ride in which children (and some adventurous adults) climb inside large air-filled clear vinyl bubbles and walk on a shallow pool of water enjoyed steady business Sunday.
Earlier in the fair, Peat said, a blind man in his 50s tried the ride just to experience the floating feeling. The ride is also popular with children with autism. "The parents say [after the ride] that this is the calmest they are in days," Peat said.
Over at the dairy barn, Melissa Branscomb said she and her family, who run Branscomb Show Cattle in Logan, were busier than ever.
On Sunday, Branscomb's 18-month-old cow Cindy Lou Who took the Grand Champion title in the fair's showring. This is Cindy's second year of competition, and as a calf last year she took Reserve Champion.
Getting a show cow ready is a lot of work, Branscomb said. "We wash 'em, we walk 'em, we blow their hair," she said, adding that it takes two to three hours of work per day per cow.
Cindy is pregnant, Branscomb said, and will calve in January. That's actually an advantage in the show ring, she said, "because it makes 'em look fuller."