Benton Franklin Fair officials tried something new this year and it turned out to be the highlight of the summer for a lot of young Tri-Citians.
Zendaya, a 17-year-old star from the Disney Channel, performed Saturday afternoon to the delight and screams of an enthusiastic pre-teen crowd. This was the first time an additional concert had been added to the main stage lineup, and judging by audience response, it was a fantastic idea.
The concerts at night are geared more for adults, but Zendaya is wildly popular with kids and teens. For many of them, this was their first concert experience with someone they were excited to see, and those are the kind of moments people remember their whole lives.
Since Zendaya is passionate about helping animals, shelter dogs were brought out for adoption during her performance, and the fair association is sending $856 to the Benton Franklin Humane Society after pledging to donate $1 for every reserve ticket sold to Zendaya's show.
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The Zendaya performance turned out to be a successful trial.
And for those who caught the evening shows, they know the lineup was impressive. Thompson Square, Dustin Lynch, Montgomery-Gentry and John Michael Montgomery wowed country music fans, while Seether and Grand Funk Railroad rocked it for others. To get that kind of top talent with the price of fair admission is a real bargain.
Add in the Horse Heaven Round-Up, which is one of the leading rodeos in the Northwest, and that's a lot of fine entertainment.
Even without the concerts and rodeo, the fair's traditional attractions and comfortable weather made for a great time. The animals, carnival and myriad exhibits were all there, as well as the chance to bump into friends and acquaintances.
Then, of course, there's the food. The fair is the one place where a bacon-wrapped corn dog sounds like a good idea for dinner. Cotton candy, elephant ears, snow cones and a whole lot of other goodies are perfectly acceptable when walking the fairgrounds.
Early attendance figures are at 116,298, which is about a half-percent lower than last year. But that does not include bus-admission transit information, which will come later.
Anyway, attendance is not the greatest indicator of whether the fair was successful.
When an event provides memories for a lot of kids, whether it's their first chance to ride a carousel, pet a goat, try a chocolate-covered banana or watch a Disney star perform, then it's a success no matter what.