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Fair a success, organizers say

The 49th annual Citrus County Fair drew to a close Saturday, and organizers say the good weather and special promotions ensured a success.

The turnout for Saturday was exceptional, said Jean Grant, manager of the Citrus County Fair.

"Saturday was the biggest Saturday we've ever had in the history of the fair," she said, basing her comments on unofficial crowd estimates. "We had lots of families come, and that always pleases me," she said.

The main draw for Saturday was the Daytime Magic special price, now in its second year. For $10, visitors had unlimited fair rides from 1 to 6 p.m. The Daytime Magic price apparently has transformed Saturday from one of the fair's sluggish days into an active one, Grant said.

Official attendance numbers will not be released until today, but Grant said she felt this year's attendance might be "a bit higher" than last year's 42,000.

In addition to Saturday's special and the beautiful weather, many of the fair's events were strong draws. They included:

Thursday night's Midnight Magic promotion. For $10, visitors had unlimited midway rides all night long.

The Everyday Giveaway, a new contest this year. It gave visitors a chance to win cash prizes between $100 and $600 for visiting business displays.

The entertainment, particularly this year's focus on gospel music. Tuesday's lineup was entirely dedicated to gospel. The Wonder State Quartet, a professional gospel group, was received warmly.

Many local gospel and country music performers also entertained throughout the week.

The weeklong fair was preceded by the traditional Miss Citrus County and Miss Teen Citrus County beauty pageants.

Lecanto High senior Amy Marie Kane, 18, was selected Miss Citrus County 1997 on March 8. Rebekah April Gregory, a Crystal River High senior, was named Miss Teen Citrus.

Even though the pageants were held a week earlier than usual, they still had strong ties to the fair. The pageants typically are held on the Friday night of the fair's opening weekend, but this year they were earlier to make the opening weekend less hectic, Grant said.

Next year, the fair's 50th year, will mark the end of Grant's 20-year tenure as fair manager.

"I want to plan, execute and close out the 50th anniversary on these grounds next year," Grant said Sunday.