BROOKSVILLE — For this year's Hernando County Fair, which ended Sunday, less became more.
Pared from its usual 10 days to seven, attendance equaled or surpassed last year's, said coordinator Joy Jackson. And comments from visitors and vendors alike were glowing.
Fair staffers were still crunching numbers Monday.
The shorter run was necessitated because the fair had to find a new midway concessionaire when the previous operator pulled out after the 2007 event. Reithoffer Shows of Gibsonton took the job, but could provide only a seven-day stand.
"We had a great midway," Jackson said. On the last day, she finally got a spin on Reithoffer's showstopper among its 30 rides: a 10-story Ferris wheel.
Other changes were also well-received. "We're working to make (the fair) more visitor-friendly," Jackson said.
The fair schedule was moved ahead two weeks to coincide with Hernando schools' spring break. Jackson said that was a special boon to junior exhibitors of livestock. When school is in session, the young people would have to arrive at the fairgrounds near 5:30 a.m. to feed their animals before classes. They were accorded a little sleep-in time with the fair staged during spring vacation.
Also, with kids on break, more families found time to visit the fair.
Entertainment was moved from the indoor auditorium to an outdoor stage under a shady big top, affording musical airwaves and a festive atmosphere to an expansive area beyond the seats.
Home and family exhibits swelled into the auditorium, where more visitors than usual strode through the doors, Jackson said.
School and club exhibits moved to a site closer to the main gate, drawing in eager onlookers.
A new Senior Day with a $2 afternoon admission attracted so many listeners that chairs had to be added at the outdoor stage where live performances of oldies music beckoned.
"If you need more seating, that's always a good sign," Jackson said.
And more parking.
"We had overflow parking two nights at least," she said.
A dozen Scouts of the Hernando County Explorers sponsored by the Sheriff's Office directed parking. The $2-per-vehicle fee went to the Explorers to pay for uniforms, equipment and other activities, said adviser Robert Pacchiarotti. He, too, was making calculations on Monday. The deputy estimated the unit parked 5,000 vehicles.
Ranks of volunteers ran to 150, aided for the second year by a volunteer coordinator. The volunteers directed entries to their proper place, performed entry and sale paperwork, staffed gates and the ticket office, and answered questions.
Among the questions from visitors late in the week was, "Why is the barn empty?"
Market hogs were moved out after their sale Tuesday evening; market steers after their sale` Thursday evening. It was for the animals' health, Jackson said. The heat causes livestock to lose weight and can be prostrating.
"We're looking into other ways to address that issue," Jackson said.
Fair officials asked a question of vendors as well: Would they contribute to the community?
"A really good thing happened Sunday evening," Jackson said. "Vendors donated leftover candy apples, cotton candy, bread — anything they would discard."
The goods were distributed to the Jerome Brown Community Center and local shelters.
"We'll have kids with sugar eyes for a week," Jackson quipped.
"We understand there are people who can't come to the fair, and we want to give back to the community," she said of the effort.
Looking forward to 2009, Jackson said the schedule is tentatively targeted once again for public school spring break, and negotiations are under way for the return of Reithoffer Shows to provide its family-oriented carnival and midway.
Beth Gray can be reached at [email protected]