Farm Show car traffic down this year, but attendance hard to gauge

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Navigating the Farm Show with a group of 10 can be tough.

Rachael Harp of Harrisburg is doing it for the family: along with the new baby, her three daughters, son, nephew, niece, sister, and mother all accompanied her Friday.

“Plus we love the animals,” Harp said. “You know, not too much of the smell, but the animals are fantastic.”

Harp’s parents used to bring her and her sister when they were kids, and after missing the last three years, they’re passing on the tradition.

“When we get older,” she said, “hopefully they bring their kids here.”

The crowds weren’t too bad mid-afternoon, she said; just avoid the food court. “Unless you need a milkshake. There’s so many people there you don’t know if there’s a line or not.”

“Just by looking at foot traffic, we can see that attendance is healthy this year,” said Michael Smith, executive deputy secretary for the state’s Department of Agriculture.

How healthy? That’s tough to say.

The department expects between 500,000 and 600,000 visitors every year, but since there aren’t tickets, they gauge numbers based on parking.

This year they’re down about 200 cars a day. And instead of the warm weather making it more attractive for people to come out, it had the opposite effect the opening weekend.

The mild days meant a soft ground, so when the rain hit, organizers had to shut down the grass parking lots.

But the department thinks more people are carpooling.

“Here in the food court,” Smith said, “every night I try to make a point of going around and talking to different vendors. And they’ve all pretty much told me sales are either on par with last year or slightly higher.”

“It’s just been crazy,” said Maddy Shipe. “Like, our line has been nonstop all day.”

Shipe spent Friday bagging potato donuts — lots and lots of potato donuts. “thousands,” she said. “I couldn’t even tell you.”

“I think the first van gets here around 5 in the morning and then we don’t stop the machines until 8:30 at night.”

Crowds or no, Harp couldn’t miss out on the memories.

“They should make this an occasion twice a year or something like that,” she said.

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