Impact of heat on state fair attendance

Published: Aug. 18, 2017 at 11:52 AM CDT
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Given that the Iowa State Fair is almost exclusively outdoors, it figures that poor weather conditions will tend to impact the overall experience of fairgoers. Excess heat seems to be the biggest driver of people not going to the fair, as opposed to rain or cool air.

The following graph shows Iowa State Fair attendance since 1904, and there are several big weather events over the past 30-40 years that have contributed to dips in attendance. Thanks to the Iowa State Fair Marketing Team for providing this graph.

The 1983 Iowa State Fair was the hottest on record, and did cause a dip in attendance by nearly 10% compared to 1982. The hot, dry year of 1988 took just a small amount out of attendance. Originally, I thought that the flood of 1993 caused the big dip in the 1990s, but in looking closer, the heatwave of 1995 is the culprit. That was the 4th hottest fair on record with unusually high humidity levels to boot.

There were some very wet years, but, if they created a dip in attendance, it didn’t appear to be significant. The coolest fair of 2004 only had minor impacts on attendance, but the fair still exceeded 1,000,000 visitors that year.

So far, so good this year. The weather has been mainly dry and mild – the sweet spot it seems for ideal attendance!