Words & Deeds

Wow, HOW many people? This concert shattered the old Western Idaho Fair attendance record.

Get a bird’s eye view of the Western Idaho Fair on Sky Ride

Western Idaho Fair officials and Ada County commissioners officially welcome Sky Ride, a permanent 1,300-foot tram that spans the fairgrounds.
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Western Idaho Fair officials and Ada County commissioners officially welcome Sky Ride, a permanent 1,300-foot tram that spans the fairgrounds.

The Western Idaho Fair wrapped up Sunday, so it’s time for my favorite annual post-fair exercise: Analyzing concert attendance numbers.

It’s fun to see which acts drew the most people to the grandstand shows, which are free with paid fair admission.

It’s impressive how many Boise folks actually do go. To estimate attendance, fair employees use a clicker counter. When a handful of fans leave a full performance, a few more are allowed to enter.

This year’s fair concerts averaged nearly 10,000 fans per night. That’s huge.

Here’s how the four shows fared.

▪ Rock band 3 Doors Down got the ball rolling Tuesday with a whopping 8,600 concertgoers. Folks streamed in to hear the band’s 2000 breakout smash, “Kryptonite,” and other radio hits.

▪ Country-rock group the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was the least popular show this year. But the influential roots band still pulled in a very respectable 6,400 concertgoers Wednesday. The crowd was treated to classic tunes such as “Mr. Bojangles” and “Fishin’ in the Dark.”

▪ Thursday was a “Hell of a Night,” thanks to singer Dustin Lynch. He lured a massive 10,200 fans to his grandstand set. Lynch, who released his first studio album seven years ago, has an arsenal of country radio singles such as “Seein’ Red,” “Cowboys and Angels” and “Mind Reader.”

▪ But Friday is when the grandstands creaked with the weight of a bazillion excited fairgoers. Classic-rock band REO Speedwagon shifted into high gear for Boise, setting a new fair concert attendance record: 14,400 fans.

REO’s record-setting evening obliterated the former biggest number, 13,103, held by country singer Josh Turner. He did that in 2016 on a Tuesday evening.

You knew REO was going to be big. First of all, the band has a boatload of singalong anthems that everyone knows: “Take It on Run,” “Keep on Loving You,” “I Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Time for Me to Fly” and more. Secondly, REO performed on a Friday, when Expo Idaho already was packed with weekend crowds.

Still — 14,400? That’s like, ridiculous, Boise. Almost as ridiculous as frontman Kevin’s Cronin’s amazing hair circa 1980.

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REO Speedwagon shown performing in Mansfield, Mass., in 2018. Robert E. Klein Invision/AP

Just for fun, here are prior years’ concert attendance numbers at the fair. Acts are listed in their order of performance.

• • •

2018

Bret Michaels — 3,900

Styx — 10,700

Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias — 12,800

Randy Houser — 9,200

• • •

2017

Scott McCreery — 6,100

Huey Lewis and the News — 12,200

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts — 6,700

Trace Adkins — 12,800

• • •

2016

Josh Turner – 13,103

Foreigner – 9,234

Sawyer Brown/LoCash – 6,157

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo – 11,582

• • •

2015

Jerrod Niemann — 2,900

Theory of a Deadman — 4,200

Gary Allan — 8,900

Queensryche — 4,500

• • •

2014

Seether — 6,500

Montgomery Gentry — 8,200

Doobie Brothers — 9,800

Thompson Square — 7,900

• • •

2013

Los Cuates de Sinaloa — 2,500

Kutless — 4,000

Foreigner — 9,000

The Guess Who — 3,500

Brantley Gilbert — 9,000

Clay Walker — 6,500

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Michael Deeds is an entertainment reporter and opinion columnist at the Idaho Statesman. Since starting at the Statesman as a news intern in 1991, he has been a sportswriter and features/entertainment editor. Deeds also has freelanced for The Washington Post, Relix, Country Weekly, Velo News, Beer Advocate and more.
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