Staycations boost fairs and festivals

Staycations boost fairs and festivals

The Oregon State fair in Salem posted a 15% gain in attendance this year, one of several fairs and festivals that saw business growth. // PHOTO COURTESY OF OREGON STATE FAIR

Many of Oregon’s largest festivals and fairs reached record-breaking attendance this summer, a sign that many Oregonians decided on staycations this year.

Attendance at the Oregon State Fair in Salem reached almost 400,000, up 15% from 2009. County fairs also did well despite budget cuts of about $14,000 each since 2008. The Tillamook County Fair set a record with more than 74,000 in attendance. One down note was sounded by the Oregon Country Fair, where attendance dropped 9% over last year, the lowest attendance since 2005.

The fairs weren’t the only winners this year. The Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland received almost $650,000 in donations, the highest ever, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland operated at 94% capacity with approximately 415,000 in attendance. “We are doing a good job connecting with Oregonians,” says Shakespeare Festival spokesman Bob Hackett, adding that Oregonians are about 35% of the audience.

Many Oregonians stayed closer to home this year or took road trips within the state, says Michelle Godfrey with the Oregon Tourism Commission. The commission uses online advertising and has regional marketing campaigns in Washington and California but also targets Oregonians. Mid-summer lodging occupancy rates were up 2.5% compared to 2009, but the number of rooms rented to in-state residents is unknown.

The fairs and festivals give Oregonians a fun activity to attend close to home without spending money on airfare. With the economy still troubling many regions around the state, “People can’t leave,” says Jerry Underwood, president of the Oregon Fair Association.