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Attendance flat, horse race betting down at Sonoma County Fairgrounds

Attendance is flat, the racing handle is down and the Sonoma County Fair is moving into the home stretch hoping a huge concert stage erected at the rodeo arena will draw fresh crowds.

"We've got some strong concerts ahead of us," said Fair Manager Tawny Tesconi, who on Tuesday watched last-minute preparations at the Chris Beck Arena for the evening's Martina McBride performance.

McBride was kicking off the first of four straight nights of fair concerts. The 17-day fair runs through Sunday.

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As of last Sunday, paid attendance was 97,123, a decrease of less than 1 percent from a year ago, said Tesconi.

Food revenue rose 1 percent to $1.5 million.

However, racing revenue fell 10 percent to $21 million. Tesconi said gambling revenues in general have declined in a sluggish economy.

"It's not just happening to the Sonoma County Fair and it's not just happening to horse racing," she said.

This is the second year when the fair has run for 17 days spread over three weeks. The fair is closed Mondays, and racing takes place Wednesday through Sunday.

Before the current schedule, the fair ran for 13 straight days.

Tesconi noted the change provided two benefits -- more days of horse racing and an extra weekend for busy working parents to bring families to the fair.


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