As the "best 12 days of summer" closed Sunday night, the Erie County Fair reported its second-highest attendance in fair history.
Fair Spokesperson Marty Biniasz said the 178th Erie County Fair in Hamburg concluded its 12-day run with nearly 1,193,279 visitors: a 21-percent increase in attendance from 2016. The all-time record - 1,220,101 - was achieved in 2014. Biniasz attributes some of the increase to "only one evening of rain" during the run.
"But a lot of it, I think, has to do with all the news coverage the 20 days prior to. The tornado, on July 20, really brought people's attention to our Fair. I think a lot people who haven't come to the Fairgrounds in many years were curious and they wanted to come see what happened after Fairnado," Biniasz said.
The first of three area tornados hit Hamburg, then swept across the southtowns with 105 mile-per-hour winds, uprooting trees, blowing out car windows and tearing apart rooftops. He says 99-percent of the damage was repaired by the Fair's opening.
Along with repair crews, firefighters also were pressed into action this year. A fire at Weidner's BBQ Building closed a portion of the midway Saturday evening. As many as eight area fire companies helped dowse the flames before they spread to other areas. Six people were treated for smoke inhalation and one person was transported to a hospital for further observation. Biniasz says the cause remains under investigation but it's believed to be electrical in nature. He says the Weidner's are already planning to rebuild in time for next year's fair.
Ride safety was an additional concern this year, after a deadly incident at the Ohio State Fair. All rides at the Columbus fair were shut down after an 18-year-old was killed when the Fire Ball ride he was on fell apart in mid-air.