Arkansas State Fair to run one day longer in Oc­to­ber

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - FRANK FELLONE

Two sig­nif­i­cant changes will come to the Arkansas State Fair in Oc­to­ber: The fair will be one day longer, and the car­ni­val com­pany has changed.

Ralph Shoptaw, the fair’s general man­ager, on Thurs­day said the fair will run this year from Oct. 12, a Thurs­day, through Oct 22 in Lit­tle Rock. The fair has been a 10-day event start­ing on a Fri­day since 1969, he said. The fair, now in its 78th year, ran six days be­fore 1969.

The new car­ni­val op­er­a­tor is North Amer­i­can Mid­way En­ter­tain­ment of Farm­land, Ind. The com­pany is com­monly known as NAME, said Amy Gir­ton, its di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and me­dia re­la­tions.

Deggeller At­trac­tions of Stu­art, Fla., had been the car­ni­val op­er­a­tor for the pre­vi­ous 22 years, Shoptaw said.

North Amer­i­can Mid­way En­ter­tain­ment and the fair have a five-year con­tract, he said, part of an ef­fort to make the fair “big­ger and bet­ter.”

The ex­tra day will ex­pand the scope of the fair, he said, and give pa­trons one more day to en­joy it. The live­stock show has opened on Thurs­days any­way, he said.

At­ten­dance was down in 2016 from the pre­vi­ous year. In 2016, 450,702 peo­ple at­tended the fair; in 2015, the num­ber was 473,106. Rain af­fects at­ten­dance, Shoptaw said, and the fair had two days of rain last year.

“At­ten­dance is part of the whole plan,” he said. “If we add another day and a big­ger, bet­ter car­ni­val, we think we can in­crease our at­ten­dance con­sid­er­ably.”

The North Amer­i­can Mid­way En­ter­tain­ment is “the largest trav­el­ing amuse­ment park in North Amer­ica,” Gir­ton said at the fair­grounds of­fices.

One of those events is the Tulsa State Fair, which this year runs from Sept. 28 to Oct. 8. The relative prox­im­ity of Tulsa to Lit­tle Rock will al­low the com­pany to get to Lit­tle Rock in time for the Arkansas fair.

Dar­rell Des­granges, the fair’s en­ter­tain­ment di­rec­tor, said Deggeller pre­vi­ously trav­elled to Lit­tle Rock from the Vir­ginia State Fair near Rich­mond, con­sid­er­ably far­ther away, a lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenge that pre­cluded an ex­tra day in Arkansas. Like the fair in Tulsa, the one in Rich­mond ends Oct. 8. Gir­ton said North Amer­i­can Mid­way En­ter­tain­ment will bring two roller coast­ers to Arkansas. The Bl­itzer, she said, “is pretty in­tense.” The Crazy Mouse is no­table for its spin­ning cars.

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