Fair officials hope for attendance boost

The 2006 Mid-South Fair opened Thursday to high hopes, in spite of reduced attendance in 2005.  Thursday, organizers said they were doing all they could to lure people through the gates.

"We're doing the best we can, and we can't worry about that," said fair General Manager Billy Orr.  "We're going to be on the optimistic side."

Among the new features at this year's fair is a flea market, the "Bargain Basement." Officials have also widened the midway to make room for more vendors, and added over a dozen new rides.

The Mid-South Fair also spent nearly $275,000 on marketing, paid for, according to Orr, by ticket sales.  "That is the life blood of the fair," he said. "You have to pay to come in, and if you don't pay- if you don't have the attendance, then you don't have the money."

Vendor Brad Johnson said attendance was his biggest worry. "If it's gonna survive, people gotta show up," he said. "If they don't show up, there's no telling.  They want to move it.  They want to do a number of things.

No matter what happens, Orr said, the fair will be back next year.

The five year average attendance at the fair is nearly 435,000 people.  In 2005, attendance fell to 360,000 people.  Organizers hope to reach their goal of 400,000 visitors in 2006.