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After Long Guessing Its Draw, The State Fair Of Texas Launched A More Accurate Headcount System In 2016 — Only To Show A 15 Percent Attendance Drop Since.

Unlike seemingly every other media outlet in Dallas and, to a degree, the whole goddamn state, we here at Central Track aren’t exactly enamored with the State Fair of Texas. Why? Because, for starters, we’re not kids any more, and we’re no longer oblivious to the ways of the world. But also for a litany of other reasons, which we’ll happily run down for you here, one per day, over the entire course of the fair’s 2019 run, adding to the list we ran throughout the fair’s 2017 run.

Earlier in this series, we highlighted a 2016 Baylor University study that mercilessly threw one of the State Fair of Texas’ biggest claims under the bus by noting that the fair’s economic impact on the City of Dallas, which it claimed to be $608 million annually, was actually more like $30 million — a jaw-dropping difference of $578 million.

One of the study’s big reveals was that the fair, in all of its hubris, just up and stopped taking a formal count of its attendance figures in 2001, deciding instead that an estimate based on ticket sales was close enough. The study called this practice into question, saying that the fair’s annual attendance claims of between 3 million and 3.5 million visitors was likely closer to around 1.7 million attendees.

Following these stinging findings, the fair decided to make an out-of-character concession to its critics and, in the fair that followed the study’s release, installed a new ticketing system that, while still reliant on self-reported statistics, allowed the fair to seemingly more accurately report to the public its daily (and, in turn, its annual) attendance figures.

Finally, there would be hard numbers for the public to look at regarding the fair’s draw — an objectively big deal, although these numbers not being available for a 15-year stretch never really bother its biggest media partners, who continued to gleefully spew the fair’s record-breaking attendance public messaging despite never possessing any real data to support such claims.

For three years now, the State Fair of Texas has made good on its promise to self-report its own attendance figures — although, unlike other fairs across the country, it still refuses to share this info until after each year’s run is complete. Still, even without in-progress 2019 data to share, a quick look at the “daily attendance” tab on the fair’s own website shows that its decision to report its attendance, while ostensibly noble, has amounted to a self-own.

Check out the numbers the fair has reported since agreeing to share this info a few years back:

  • 2016: 2,408,032
  • 2017: 2,250,433
  • 2018: 2,049,118

That’s a sharp and steady decline: In three years, the fair’s annual attendance has dropped by more than 350,000 people per year — a decrease of 15 percent.

As D Magazine noted in its look at the 2017 numbers after they were released, these figures are even more discouraging when compared to the Minnesota State Fair, which, at 12 days long, is only half the length of the State Fair of Texas. In 2018, the Minnesota State Fair drew 2,046,533 people — almost as many people as our fair did, but in half the time. Also of note: The Minnesota State Fair is increasing its draw where Texas’ is decreasing; this year, the fair set a new attendance record by getting 2,126,551 through its gates. (That D piece also notes that the Minnesota State Fair is more affordable than its expensive-ass Texas counterpart.)

So, no, it’s not just that the notion of fairs in general is out of step with the times. If the Minnesota fair is growing, why is Texas’ version in decline?

Oh, many reasons.

Long story short, though: The State Fair of Texas’ draw just ain’t what it used to be. And it certainly isn’t the national gold standard that its fans so ardently believe it is.

Nope. It’s just a pain in the ass.

Cover photo by Kathy Tran.

More Reasons Why The State Fair Of Texas Sucks:

  1. Its history is super racist!
  2. It’s a major drain on Dallas police!
  3. It’s bad for your health!
  4. It’s so damn expensive!
  5. It’s not the economic driver it says it is!
  6. It’s a super shitty neighbor!
  7. It’s an altar to false idols!
  8. It makes Fair Park useless!
  9. It wastes city funds on out-of-towners!
  10. It exploits cute animals!
  11. Its executives take home too much money!
  12. Everything on the midway is a ripoff.
  13. It has willfully ignored its obligations and allowed Fair Park to fall into disrepair!
  14. It refuses to be transparent about the way it spends public funds.
  15. It can’t handle Fair Park’s long-term needs.
  16. Its lauded scholarship program is a joke compared to those of other, similar events.
  17. It uses fear tactics in its negotiations with the city.
  18. It goes out of its way to shield its crowds from the poor black neighborhood that surrounds Fair Park.
  19. Its low-level employees get burned by its executives’ bad business decisions.
  20. Its ticket-based economy is designed to squeeze even more cash out of attendees.
  21. It cares way too much about parking lots that go unused most of the year.
  22. It’s petty as fuck.
  23. It celebrates humanity’s fucked up relationship with livestock.
  24. It refuses to change.
  25. It can be easily debated.
  26. Its concert bookings could be heated up a few degrees.
  27. It’s tearing the Fletcher family apart!
  28. It’s spent a least $1 million to keep its books out of the public eye. What’s it hiding?
  29. It fired a beloved employee, claiming his request to attend a charity event was a contract violation.
  30. It has become a literal joke.
  31. Who’s buying what they’re selling?
  32. Its racist roots are still being unearthed by national scholars.
  33. It’s in bed with its would-be critics.
  34. It thinks you’re super dumb.
  35. It caters to Dallas’ elite in ways you’ve never even heard of because you’re such a plebe.
  36. No, seriously, its racist past is super troubling.
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