The brightly colored State Fair zinnia flowers have been planted, a new wrought-iron marquee sign arches over the main entrance and final preparations are officially underway for the California Mid-State Fair running Wednesday through July 28.
This year, fair-goers will see a few new attractions, some changes to the grounds and at least six large crowds at its country, rock and pop concerts.
“Right now, overall, expectations are really high,” said Tom Keffury, the fair’s director of marketing. “Finishing touches are getting done, vendors are moving in, signs are being hung and the grounds are being transformed. It’s a fabulous time right now.”
People through the gates
Last year, the fair saw about 411,000 people through its gates, down 4.7 percent from 2011, The Tribune previously reported. But the dip was expected, Keffury said, because 2011 had 430,000 attendants and was “the biggest year we’ve ever had,” Keffury said.
One of the main ways to gauge the 12-day fair is in its concert lineup.
In 2011, six acts sold more than 10,000 tickets each, “which was a record for us,” said Vivian Robertson, chief executive officer of the Paso Robles Event Center.
This year, officials anticipate its pop, country and rock shows will bring a solid year. Season pass sales are also up, showing 15 percent more sold during a special May promotion than in 2012.
As of Thursday, the three highest concert-ticket sales for top-billed acts went to country trio Rascal Flatts at 9,632 tickets sold; country superstar Tim McGraw at 9,610; and hard-rock band Van Halen at 8,402.
The fair’s main stage, the Chumash Grandstand Arena, can fit a little more than 14,000 people.
“Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts are running neck and neck,” Robertson said.
Trailing well behind them are “American Idol” standout Adam Lambert and Sail Rock 2013 — a showcase featuring soft rock stars of the 1970s and ’80s — were the last to be booked, so they’ve had fewer days on sale.
“Hopefully, we will have a lot of walk-up sales the day of,” Robertson added about Sail Rock, because it’s a Saturday night show.
Robertson doesn’t anticipate the new Vina Robles Amphitheatre, a 3,300-seat concert venue now open in Paso Robles, will compete too much with the fair’s acts.
“Our venue is completely different in type and scope,” Robertson said. “The main Grandstand Arena seats 14,000-plus, and we purchase the best we can based on availability. Tour dates and routing remains the most challenging factor for us in the entertainment-buying world.”
The Paso Robles Event Center is a year-round operation with a $10 million budget that hosts the fair each summer. It’s on state land but relies on its year-round events paired with the continued push to attract big-name fair acts to help offset the state’s declining financial support, which ended altogether in 2012.
Meanwhile, people will see new features at the fair. Among them are a wrought-iron welcome sign at the main entrance, a new concrete dance floor along the main walkway and an elaborate interactive hand-washing station called Sudsy’s Barn.
The new concrete dance floor and patio area, located near the Headliner Stage and drinking spot Jimmy’s Waterin’ Hole, was poured this year to prevent crowds who love to dance from spilling into the walkway, Keffury said.
A nightly dance there “became so popular the crowd would extend out into the midway, and if you wanted to go to the livestock area at 10 at night, it would be tough to get through all the people,” he added.
Parents looking to clean little ones’ hands can now skip long bathroom lines and mosey over to the new Sudsy’s Barn attraction, located at the north end of the midway next to the junior livestock area.
Three-dimensional talking farm animal props will be on hand to welcome kids to playful spouts of water in watering cans and special spouts. Hand sanitizer will also be dispensed through a bee hive.
How the concerts are selling
Here’s a look as of Thursday at concert ticket sales* for acts booked at the fair’s main stage, the Chumash Main Grandstand Arena. The area can fit a little more than 14,000 people.
Rascal Flatts/The Band Perry: 9,632
Tim McGraw/Kip Moore: 9,610
Van Halen: 8,402
John Mayer/Philip Phillips: 7,384
Matchbox 20/Goo Goo Dolls: 5,665
Huey Lewis and the News: 4,427 (includes 325 special Jazz Night tables sold, plus grandstand seating)
Trace Atkins/Brantley Gilbert: 2,639
Adam Lambert: 1,402
Sail Rock: 773
* Figures do not include seats artists hold or comp tickets.
If you go
The California Mid-State Fair opens Wedensday and runs through July 28 at the Paso Robles Event Center, 2198 Riverside Ave.