Year in and year out, it’s Mother Nature that plays the biggest role in steering the fate of the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair.
"Our operations are completely weather-dependent," says Marty Svrcek, the fair’s executive director.
But in the end, last week’s handful of swift-moving storms brought more close calls than actual downpours, and putting little damper on ticket sales as more than 200,000 thronged to the fair’s 63rd running.
That tone was set early on this year when afternoon showers thinned out the Midway lines on the fair’s opening Saturday night. The biggest downpour followed the next evening—more than an inch of rain, according to National Weather Service—forcing fairgoers to find shelter and putting volunteers to hours of work vacuuming out the animal stalls and laying down fresh bedding.
A team of police, firefighters and private security keep constant watch over weather reports pouring in throughout the fair’s nine-day, 120-hour uptime. They headed into their command post early and often as thunderstorms loomed ominous on the horizon.
But while the National Weather Service logged 3.5 inches of rain over three days, the reality at the fairgrounds was much drier, Svrcek said—like on Thursday "with rain on all sides," or the heavy gray skies that rolled in on Friday, casting doubt over the before dissolving harmlessly away.
"We’d have rain to the north, east and west, and it would be perfectly sunny here," Svrcek said.
Once the accounting is done, Svrcek expects this year’s attendance to reach 220,000—right on par with last year. (By way of comparison, 2009 limped in at barely 190,000, while 2008 set the "gold standard" of fair-friendly weather, which translated into more than 225,000 attendees.)
For now, there’s no rest for the weary. Planning is well underway for next year’s 64th annual fair. The theme: Sow it, Grow It, Show It—which is meant to encourage locally grown produce, Svrcek said. The early headliners: A pair of white tigers. Also on tap: The return of , which made an auspicious enough debut that Svrcek wants it to come back 'hopefully on a grander scale."