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In Wake Of Ride Tragedy, Ohio State Fair Sees Lowest Turnout in Years

Ohio State Fair
Creative Commons

The Ohio State Fair came to a close Sunday, August 6, with the lowest number of visitors it's seen in years - a 13 percent decrease compared to 2016.

Over its 12-day run, an estimated 801,031 people came through the state fair. That's a dip from the year before, when 921,214 visitors attended. 

"Opening Day’s tragic ride accident, which closed the Midway for several days, coupled with a few days of cool, rainy weather, certainly contributed to the dip in attendance," said fair general manager Virgil Strickler said in a press release. "Nevertheless, we thank the hundreds of thousands of devoted fairgoers who supported this great end-of-summer tradition."

The first day of the fair, July 26, was marked by tragedy when the Fire Ball amusement ride came apart mid-operation, killing an 18-year-old and injuring seven others. Four of those victims remained hospitalized as of last week.

KMG, the manufacturer of the Fire Ball ride, blamed "excessive corrosion"of a support beam for the collapse of the swinging ride. Lawyer Mark Kitrick is pursuing a possible lawsuit over 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell's death. He says his firm hired a crash reconstruction company to investigate the death and isn't relying on KMG's explanation. The Ohio State Highway Patrol continues to investigate the incident.

Fair attendance steadily increased from the years 2010 to 2015, peaking that year with 982,305 attendees. The 2018 Ohio State Fair is scheduled for July 25-August 5 next year. 

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.