This year's Kansas State Fair drew record crowds, making it one of the most attended fairs in the past 30 years.
Figures released Friday show this year's fair in Hutchinson attracted 354,184 people, which exceeded last year's gate by 3,328, about a 1 percent increase. It was the highest attendance since 1998, officials said.
The increase came in the midst of a dragging economy, which State Fair director Denny Stoecklein said sometimes means good news on the midway.
"When the economy is soft, people tend to stay closer to home and watch their dollars," Stoecklein said. "If we can provide an affordable form of family entertainment, that sometimes helps us."
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Stoecklein said he doesn't know whether other state fairs were doing as well, but carnival provider North American Midway reported the Kansas fair as having record ticket sales for its rides.
Since 1978, only three other fairs — 1995, 1997 and 1998 — drew more people.
Stoecklein, who joined the State Fair in 1995, said he doesn't know what about those fairs stood out and drew so many people.
In 1998, 'N Sync played to screaming teenagers in the grandstand. But this year, so did teen star Selena Gomez.
"Sometimes, it's things you can't control — like Mother Nature," Stoecklein said.
"In 2008, it rained eight of the 10 days. This year, we had one day where Wichita got a big hailstorm, but for some reason it stayed away from us."
Stoecklein said he'd like to hear what people would like to see next year. People can leave comments on the fair's Facebook fan page or on Twitter.
Go to Facebook.com and search for Kansas State Fair. Or follow KansasStateFair on Twitter.com.