2018 By the Numbers

Nine days of warm sunny weather made the “The World’s Greatest County Fair” a perfect September get-away for thousands of fairgoers, September 8-16.

“Although crowds appeared to be affected the last weekend when temperatures hit the 90 degree mark, we were fortunate to get nine consecutive dry days,” said Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons. “Great weather, great programming, and great improvements to the fairgrounds all made for a successful 2018 Fair.”

Parsons continued that the success of the 2018 Clay County Fair can be measured in several metrics, including:

Fairgoer Satisfaction

  • According to data from surveys conducted by Iowa Lakes Community College, 79% of fairgoers said they were “very satisfied” with the Fair (compared to 74.7% in 2017).
  • Additionally, 91.5% of those surveyed said they “definitely would” or were “very likely” to recommend attending the Fair to their friends and family (compared to 89% in 2017).

Youth Participation

  • 903 4-H and FFA exhibitors from 48 counties in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska participated in livestock and human sciences events at the Fair.
  • 1,219 third and fourth grade students from 21 regional schools visited the Fair as part of the AgCiting and SciCiting field trip programs coordinated by ISU Extension Clay County.

Fairgoer Spending

  • Fairgoer spending on food, beverage, specialty concessions, and carnival rides totaled $2,282,267.94 (up more than $28,000 over 2017).
  • Specifically, Gold Star Amusements, the Fair’s carnival provider, set an all-time Fair record for carnival ride gross sales – a 5% increase over the previous record set in 2017. 

Exhibitor Participation

  • 503 commercial exhibitors, concessionaires, and vendors showcased at the Fair (up from 497 in 2017). With 150 ag-specific exhibitors, the Fair again hosted the largest farm machinery and ag equipment show at any fair in the United States.
  • 1,398 exhibitors participated in various open class livestock and non-livestock competitions and took home nearly $100,000 in premiums, ribbons, trophies, and awards. (1,593 open class exhibitors participated in 2017.)


  • The Sleep Number Grandstand attracted 21,335 fairgoers to multiple stage performances and dirt events, down slightly from 21,831 fairgoers in 2017. The top four attended events were Lee Brice (3,195); Lauren Daigle/Zach Williams (2,973); Chuckwagon Races (2,810-two sessions); and Oak Ridge Boys/Jimmy Fortune (2,746).
  • Overall Fair attendance totaled 308,603. Complete daily attendance numbers can be found at www.claycountyfair.com.

“I know avid fairgoers will try to compare this year’s attendance numbers with previous years’ numbers,” said Parsons. “Unfortunately, comparing this year’s attendance to any previous year’s attendance is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Technology changes this year allow us to present a more accurate number.”

Changes to the Fair’s ticketing procedures, including digitally scanning some advance admission tickets in 2018, allowed the Fair to create a more accurate attendance reporting model replacing the former attendance estimates.

“Fair attendance is a source of civic pride and curiosity for all of our stakeholders,” said Parsons. “While we recognize and celebrate that importance, the Fair also has a responsibility to be transparent and accountable. However, in order for that accountability to occur, we must take the time to present an accurate attendance number, which is difficult to do while the Fair is still going on.”

For the first time in recent Fair history, estimated daily attendance numbers were not released during the Fair in an attempt to provide a more accurate attendance number.

More detailed information on the 2018 Clay County Fair will be made available at the Clay County Fair Association’s annual meeting on October 30.  Lifetime memberships to the Fair Association are available for $100.  Call (712) 580-3000 for more information.