Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo ends smoothly

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldAugust 27, 2012 

For the first time in the nine years that Lori Lancaster has worked at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo, the event ran out of parking spaces Friday and Saturday nights, she said.

That bodes well for attendance numbers, which will be compiled today.

"It was a great fair," said Lancaster, the fair manager. "It was the best weather we could have hoped for."

Vendors at the fair also were reporting a good event as they packed up their booths Sunday afternoon.

"Business was up. It was a good year," said Brian Conroy, of Vancouver, who sold yakisoba noodles and teriyaki at his booth. Crowds were particularly good Friday and Saturday, he said.

The fairgrounds were a ghost town by Sunday afternoon.

Farm animals already had left the grounds.

Daniel Miles, 11, of Finley, said he was responsible for feeding his 4-H steer and lamb through last night, when buyers hauled them off.

He was on the fairgrounds with his dad, Darrell Miles, to remove their blocking chute Sunday afternoon.

Many of the 4-H and FFA kids can relax after selling the animals they raised this summer at the fair's Market Stock Sale on Friday. But not Daniel. He's still got steers to take to the Connell Junior Livestock Show, he said.

At the Spud McVayes booth, Vaye Thobois, who lives near Yakima, was packing up after five days of selling traditional fair food -- beer-battered corn dogs, corn on the cob and elephant ears.

Each year is a challenge as new booths and new food are introduced to tempt fairgoers, she said. This year, other booths introduced deep fried butter balls and deep fried alligator on a stick.

But Thobois' booth held its own, she said.

"I think we were up a little," she said. "We were happy."

Food sales appeared to be up because of the pleasant weather, Lancaster said. Last year, hotter temperatures kept some people from working up an appetite.

This year, high temperatures topped out most days in the 80s, with enough cooling at night to require jackets.

There were a few cases of dehydration, scrapes and bumps this year, but fewer medical transports were needed than last year, Lancaster said.

"This year was the smoothest one I've been through," she said.

The Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy and Bradley Gaskin concert Thursday night was particularly popular, she said.

Several people told her it was the best performance they'd seen at the fair, she said.

Reserved seats for Big & Rich and also REO Speedwagon on Tuesday night sold out.

But the crowd for Hinder on Wednesday night actually was larger than for REO Speedwagon, since it drew so many people in their late teens and early 20s who didn't bother with reserved seats, she said.

New video screens allowed more people to watch the concerts this year.

Moving the barbecue contest to Saturday also was a good move, drawing a record 21 teams and more people to watch the competition, she said.

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