HUTCHINSON — Good weather, good concerts and new activities bumped up the Kansas State Fair attendance this year.
Preliminary tallies for the 2018 fair show 327,965 people came through the gates. That's a 1.76 percent increase over the 2017 fair. Initial reports also show growth in revenue and several vendors indicated this year's fair topped sales totals from recent years.
"The Kansas State Fair is at a pivotal turning point," said Interim General Manager Bob Moeder in a press release. "This year's numbers reflect a change in direction. We have a really solid team who stayed focused, helping us grow and expand the Fair during this transitional year."
In 2017, 322,278 people attended, though the 2016 Kansas State Fair recorded 359,808 visitors, which is the second-best attendance in at least 40 years.
Starting in 2017, tickets were counted more accurately using a scanning e-ticket system. Previous tickets were weighed. Because of the previous way the fair measured attendance, there is no way to know if totals before 2017's are accurate or compare correctly.
Commercial exhibitors reported higher sales and some said their sales doubled from last year, according to fair officials.
The increase in sales generates more sales tax, which goes toward building maintenance on the fairgrounds.
During the 2018 session, Kansas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 415, which divers nearly 84 percent of the state sales tax revenues collected during the fair from the State General Fund to the State Fair Capital Improvements Fund. The other 16 percent will continue to flow into the State Highway Fund.
The law, which went into effect July 1, is estimated to bring in nearly $400,000 a year, Moeder said.
"The increase in revenue will help us get a jump-start on capital improvements, which will make the Fair even better going forward," Moeder said.
Fairgoers purchased nearly 24,000 concert tickets for the eight concerts this year, up from 15,000 the previous year. The Beach Boys was the top seller, with about 5,600 tickets purchased, followed by Dan + Shay with 5,000 tickets.
The 2019 Kansas State Fair is Sept. 6-15.
Robin Jennison, the outgoing secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, will take the helm as general manager starting Monday.