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Arizona State Fair sets new attendance record in 2021

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Posted at 12:39 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 15:40:52-04

PHOENIX — More than 1.5 million people attended the Arizona State Fair this year, which sets a new attendance record for the 116-year-old event, according to fair officials.

The previous attendance record of 1.26 million people was set in 2019, the last fair to be held prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (the fair reported the previous record was 1.3 million in a news release, but a fair spokesperson later confirmed they rounded the 2019 number up). The 2020 state fair was canceled because of the pandemic; instead, the fair held a series of drive-thru food events featuring some of the fair concessionaires.

This year's fair featured most of the same rides, games, and deep-fried foods that people have come to expect. The biggest difference was no major concerts at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum due to apparent budget shortfalls attributed to event cancellations during the pandemic, including the 2020 fair.

Jen Yee, spokesperson for the Arizona State Fair, previous told ABC15 that the Arizona Exposition and State Fair is a self-funded state agency and uses revenues from the previous year's state fair, as well as rentals of the fairgrounds and its facilities, to fund the following year's fair. Due to the pandemic, many events were canceled, which meant there was not enough money to book artists, she said.

One big question that has yet to be answered is where will the 2022 Arizona State Fair be held?

Prior to the 2021 state fair, the Arizona State Fair Board unexpectedly voted in March to relocate the state fair to Wild Horse Pass, part of the Gila River Indian Community. At the time, Executive Wanell Costello and the Governor's Office described it as a one-time, "temporary" move as the fairgrounds were being utilized as a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site. Wild Horse Pass would apparently allow for more social distancing amid the pandemic, officials said.

However, in August, two months before the October fair, it was announced that the fair would remain at the fairgrounds as officials were unable to secure the infrastructure needed to successfully put on the event at Wild Horse Pass, near Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, at I-10 and Wild Horse Pass Blvd.

In a statement in August, Board Chairman Jonathan Lines said he was "committed to working with the Gila River Indian Community to see if we can move the Fair to the Gila River Indian Reservation in 2022 in a manner that is mutually beneficial to both sides." It was the first public mention that moving the 2022 fair was being considered.

Details on that potential move — and whether it is again temporary or a permanent move — is not known. ABC15 has reached out to the Arizona State Fair and the Governor's Office for comment and to request additional information.

Between 2012 and 2018, the fair averaged around 1.1 million people, according to data released by the fair. In 2010 and 2011, a little over a million people attended the fair. And in 2009, a total of 961,000 people attended the fair.