Turnout at the Fair turned out to be pretty good ... considering

High gas prices and economic woes didn't stop Southern Oregonians from heading to the Jackson County Fair, making this year's fair one of the best attended in some time.

A total of 152,360 people passed through the gates during the fair's run, up about 5 percent from last year, said Chris Borovansky, manager of the Jackson County Fairgrounds and Exposition Park in Central Point.

In the past 10 years, attendance ranged from a low of 139,000 to a high of 154,000. This year's figures fell just 1,640 tickets, or 1 percent, short of a record. Friday was the 2008 fair's best attended day with about 32,000 visitors.

Borovansky said that because the economy is not doing well, people are looking for wallet-friendly entertainment.

"The economy is pretty tough this year, and (the fair) was a value," Borovansky said.

He also said the heat, or lack of it compared to recent years, helped to boost attendance.

"When the weather is good, people spend a lot more time outdoors and at outdoor events," Borovansky said.

Two evening shows in the Lithia Motors Amphitheater came close to selling out for reserved seating.

The Bob and Tom Comedy All-Stars sold the most reserved tickets at 1,900 Saturday evening. The Beach Boys concert sold 1,870 reserved seats Friday. The amphitheater's capacity for reserved seating is 2,000, though uncounted open seating was available on the lawn.

Another profitable area of the fair was the midway and rides. The gross profit of ride ticket sales, not including unlimited-ride wristbands, was $410,000.

Two other popular Southern Oregon attractions — the Britt Festivals in Jacksonville and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland — reported normal to above-average sales to date.

Britt Festival shows saw an uptick in ticket sales, Executive Director Rick Hood said. Three shows were scheduled at the Lithia Amphitheater compared to only one last year. The increased capacity of the location allowed for increased ticket sales.

Overall sales were up 10,000 from last year, Hood said. Seven shows have sold out this season.

"Last year at this time we had sold out seven shows, too," Hood said.

Seventy percent of the clients at the festival live within an hour or two of Jacksonville, Hood said.

OSF spokeswoman Amy Richard said attendance is already 1 percent ahead of last year. The 2007 season broke the high record of ticket sales at 404,000.

A survey conducted annually for the last 20 years suggested that most account holders drove more than 120 miles to see a show. Richard hasn't seen any direct correlation in rising gas prices and decrease in out-of-town guests.

"It hasn't changed," Richard said. "Of course, in these times we hope people living closer would consider us."

Reach intern Stacey Barchenger at 776-4464 or e-mail her at intern1@mailtribune.com.

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