Attendance, like rides, goes up and down at Red River Ex
The Red River Ex experienced two attendance extremes during its stormy 10-day run this year.
Organizers said nearly 209,000 people visited the fair this year, a number that CEO Garth Rogerson called fantastic, considering six of days were blasted by rain.
"Obviously we were rain-affected and it really hurt us for a number of days but when the sun did shine people came in droves," he said.
The Ex ran from June 13-22 this year and the first Sunday, June 15, was the lowest-ever revenue day. That weekend Winnipeg was drenched with 72 millimetres of rain — nearly as much as the typical total for the entire month of June.
Even so, more than 3,100 hundred people showed up.
“We'll run the ride because if there's no lightning, it's not really a safety issue,” Rogerson said.
“Those people that came had a great time because they just went from ride to ride to ride [with no lineups], and they were soaking wet but they had a wonderful time. I was shocked that anybody would come.”
And on the final Sunday, the Ex had its largest-ever walk-up crowd under hot, sunny skies.
Attendance for that day was 38,007 but of that, more than 17,000 was walk-up customers, Rogerson said.
This year's attendance was up from last year. In 2013, 175,971 people went to the Ex. In 2012, 214,599 attended and 2011 was a record-setting year at 223,183.
Rogerson said he thinks the Ex could double its attendance.
"I believe that this fair in a market of this size, based on looking at all the fairs in North America, our attendance should be 400,000," said Rogerson. "But the challenge is we couldn't fit 400,000 people here so we're in a process of creating those things that will allow us to dramatically expand attendance."
A multi-millon dollar plan has been in the works the last few years that would see the Ex grounds expanded, with more space, new access routes and additional parking added to help the fair service more members of the public.