Benton Franklin fair attendance just shy of 2010

KENNEWICK -- Bringing in one of the captains from the popular TV show Deadliest Catch and adding more Mutton Bustin for the kids helped keep fair attendance close to last year's numbers.

The number of people passing through the gates of the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo in Kennewick this year was 115,664, just shy of last year's 116,729.

"It was a really good fair. The hot weather didn't seem to impact us much, though I noticed more people on the grounds after it cooled down around 5 p.m.," said Lori Lancaster, fair manager. "Cool desserts, like the frozen cheese cake on a stick, sold really well because of the weather. So did lemonade and ice cream."

Total income for the fair and rodeo hasn't been tallied yet -- that will come next week. But with carnival, beverage and food sales all up this year, Lancaster said she expects that is a good indication things will be financially steady.

The fair raised $1,387 for Second Harvest Tri-Cities, which is enough to buy 8,322 pounds of food for the various food banks.

The market stock sale of the 4-Hers and FFA youths' livestock totaled $645,200 with one steer going for $9.50 a pound.

"At some 1,300 pounds, that's over $12,000. That'll go a long way for college," Lancaster said.

The rodeo did really well this year. Usually the stands fill up just Friday and Saturday, but there was a big crowd on Thursday too, she said.

Cowgirl College on Saturday was popular and so was the Deadliest Catch Capt. Steve Campbell. But what the kids really loved was Mutton Bustin, sheep bareback riding.

"Moving Mutton Bustin to the Kids Zone really helped. Normally we do it just during the rodeo and can only handle 10 kids a night. This year we did that and added three shows a day in Kids Zone. We probably involved 50 kids a day this year," Lancaster said.

Three of the fair's five main concerts were sold out and the other two nearly sold out.

"Bret Michaels on Wednesday -- now those went fast. People really liked him," she said.

"There were some problems with the e-tickets the first day, but that's like anything new, you just go to your back up plan," Lancaster said.

Now, four days after the fair closed for the season, the grounds seem "lonely and messy," she said. "I much prefer it with thousands of people roaming the fair grounds, having fun."