The fairgrounds in west Davenport is quiet today as workers clear away the dusty - and sometimes muddy - footprints of an estimated 260,000 visitors to 2009 Mississippi Valley Fair.
The crowd-pleasing event kicked off early Tuesday with the 4-H Sheep Show and continued through a rainy Friday and muggy 90-something degree temperatures Saturday and Sunday. Fairgoers swayed and rocked at grandstand shows, admired Belgian horses and countless other exhibits and animals, rode spine-tingling carnival rides and munched exotic concoctions such as chocolate-coated bacon on a stick.
"I think even with the economic turn down in the country and one day of bad weather, we'll do about what we did last year (in attendance)," Bob Fox, fair director, said.
Having a quarter-million people walk through the gates is very good in these economic times, he said. The usual fair attendance ranges between 260,000-275,000 with a record attendance of 282,000 in 2005.
Fox admits controlling the weather is impossible, but fortunately Friday night's grandstand show with country duo Big and Rich went on even with strong storms earlier in the day muddying up the track and grandstand infield.
The band, most known for its 2007 hit "Lost in This Moment," was great to work with, and Fox's staff and union loaders made it possible to get the show set up in time and give 25,000 people a first-rate evening, he said.
Chocolate-covered bacon, this year's fresh food temptation by the Iowa and Wisconsin Machine Sheds, held its own against the hundreds of treats offered by vendors. The restaurant served about 2,500 chocolate offerings at the Mississippi Valley Fair and 10,000 at the Wisconsin State Fair, said Jeff Grunder, the chief executive operator for the Iowa Machine Shed, Davenport.
"That's a lot of bacon," he said.
The treat is made from bacon, Ghirardelli chocolate, sea salt and almond bark. Grunder said the treat could be added to restaurant's menu.
This year's business was acceptable, but not as good as previous years, said vendor Jose Camuendo of Ande's Cosmos. The artist, originally from South America, crafts jewelry out of bamboo in addition to selling clothing, delicate necklaces of flowers and butterflies, and other items. He looks forward to a stronger sales and an improved economy next year, he said.
For many children, the Mississippi Valley Fair is summed up in two words - the carnival. The midway offered excited youngsters venues for fun on the Tilt-A-Whirl, Spider and carousel rides and game at the Evans United Shows Carnival.
"It's a little warm, but it's Iowa. We're used to it," said Richard Wells, spokesman for the carnival.
Food and the rides lured Verena Elliott of Davenport and her family to the fairgrounds Sunday.
"My grandson wants to take advantage of all the rides," she said.