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Fair fares much better this season

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips<br> Betina and Hanna Reed walk down the midway at the Gwinnett County Fair last week.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Betina and Hanna Reed walk down the midway at the Gwinnett County Fair last week.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- One of the biggest measures of the success of this year's fair season compared to last is the increase in the number of people who turned out.

Due to heavy rains last September, only 72,000 people came through the gates at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds. This year, Fair Manager Dale Thurman expects the numbers, which organizers are still counting, to top 200,000.

"That's what rain will do," Thurman said of 2009's dismal turnout. "Last year was pretty much a total washout."

This year, rains held off until the final day of the fair, Sunday, closing down the carnival early while the livestock shows and the evening concert still went on.

New to this year's fair offerings were a cow milking demonstration, a competition for wool makers and a display of honey bees making honey, courtesy of a local group of beekeepers, all additions that drew a lot of interest, Thurman said.

"It's things like that makes the fair fun, something that you just don't see every day," he said. "The people seemed to have a good time and they came in tremendous numbers."

One of the most talked about aspects of this year's fair was the birth of a donkey, Ellie Mae, on Sept. 17. The baby donkey's mother, Rae Rae, was part of the fair's petting zoo.

"It was all ears and legs," Thurman said of Ellie Mae. "We're still getting feedback on that."

Thurman said the fair's board of directors will decide within the next few months what projects -- improvements to facilities, changes within the infrastructure -- they will take on with profits from this year's fair season.

"We'll know within the next month how we stand on it," he said, "but it's going to help us do a lot of projects that we weren't able to complete last year."