The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana State Fair opens Wednesday, with promoters eyeing a new attendance record when many state fairs across the nation are in decline.
A cooler-than-normal summer combined with the 100th anniversary of the 4-H program could push attendance beyond last year's record of 878,000 over 12 days.
A new 4-H Education Complex will house all non-animal 4-H projects, exhibits and live demonstrations following a $7.5 million renovation of a former dormitory.
State Fair Director William H. Stinson hopes the new complex and the centennial celebration will bring out many of Indiana's 350,000 4-H members.
"Obviously, not all of them come to the fair. For many of them, the kids have grown. We've been telling them that if they want to come, this is the year to be here," he told the Indianapolis Star Sunday.
State fairs elsewhere, including those in most adjacent states, have been in decline because of factors including fewer visitors, bad weather and budget shortfalls.
Attendance at the 2003 Michigan State Fair fell 300,000 from the year before, in part because of the power blackout in the Northeast. Illinois has cut its fair budget, and Ohio has pared down its schedule.
Nationwide, attendance at the 50 largest U.S. fairs of all types dropped by nearly 730,000 people, or 1.6 percent, according to Amusement Business magazine.
"Fairs are like any business," said Max Willis, chief operating officer of the 3,000-member International Association of Fairs and Expositions based in Springfield, Mo. "They have to be progressive. They've got to continue to improve."
Improvements at the Indiana State Fair this year also include new women's restrooms and more parking.
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