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FAIR'S ATTENDANCE MARK DEMOLISHED

After a record number of people went through more than 53,000 pounds of potatoes, 20,000 pounds of onions and 15,000 pounds of peppers the past 12 days, it wasn't the smell of fried baking oil, but fried motor oil and fuel that filled the air at the grandstand at the Erie County Fair Sunday.

Western New York said goodbye to the 159th Erie County Fair with a bang Sunday night with the ever-popular "World's Largest Demolition Derby."

"It's total mayhem," said Judy Dailey of Hamburg.

"It's the excitement of two cars crossing over to meet each other," said Scott Brown of Orchard Park, trying to describe his devotion to the derby. "This is my first day at the fair. I just came for the derby."

"Just to be able to hit something and your insurance doesn't go up," added Lenny Girdlestone of Orchard Park.

Organizers were happy with not only the demolition derby but also the entire fair.

"It's good. It's very good," said Fair Manager Lloyd L. Lamb. "We really feel we had an outstanding fair."

This year's fair will be remembered for sunny weather. There was just one day of rain -- that came Tuesday -- and the precipitation cleared out by that evening.

"The weather is the key. That's the key on the whole fair for us," said Bill West, the owner of Kari's stands.

Kari's has three sausage stands, two Philly cheese steak stands, two pizza stands and one lemonade stand.

"It's been a good fair, very good," said West, who was ending his 22nd year at the fair.

Attendance started out strong with a record 51,315 showing up for Preview Night Aug. 12. That set the pace for record attendance of 1,020,662, beating the previous record of 1,018,157 in 1995.

Lamb said entries in all areas of the fair were up, including agriculture and the animal shows.

"They've really got something going for them," said E. James Strates, president of Strates Shows Inc., which operates the midway. "This area has got to be really proud of this fair.

"I love coming here," said Strates, whose family has provided rides on the midway at the fair for 74 years. "You've got more buildings here than most fairs."

After the midway shut down at midnight Sunday, workers expected to have it dismantled and on its way to Syracuse by tonight for the New York State Fair, which opens Thursday.

As West surveyed customers at one of his food stands Sunday afternoon, he echoed the comments of many tired fair workers: "I'm gone. I'm shot," he said. "I wake up at 7 and I'm here everyday until closing."

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