ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — After many COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, crowds are eager to attend outdoor events. But the Arapahoe County Fair Saturday was not an option for many.
Fair organizers closed the gates at 8 p.m. and turned away ticket holders after the fairgrounds reached capacity Saturday night.
Arapahoe County Fair attendance on Saturday night surpassed 14,500 attendees—one of the largest crowds in the fair’s history and the first time the event has had to close due to large crowds.
"We were like, 'Fairground closed'? I was like, 'No way it's closed because all the rides are still going. You can still see all the rides spinning,'" 17-year-old Kylie Martin said.
She was one of, perhaps, hundreds of people turned away from the fair Saturday night.
"It got to a point at about eight o'clock where between how many people we already had on the grounds and how many people were waiting to get in ... all of our public safety people and our executives in charge of the fair decided it just made more sense to stop letting people in just for the safety of everybody," Luc Hatlestad, public information officer for Arapahoe County, said.
That meant Kylie and her friend couldn't get back in despite purchasing all-day tickets. They stepped away from the fair to get food elsewhere because of the long lines. Their other friends, who were supposed to meet them later in the evening, also couldn't get in.
"She called up, she asked for a refund and they said, 'No, come tomorrow.' Well, she can't go tomorrow," Joette Martin, Kylie's mother, said.
The Martin family had no option but to file a dispute with their bank after learning they wouldn't be receiving a refund. The fair's website states tickets are non-refundable, rain or shine.
"We can't issue any refunds, and that's in the disclaimer of the tickets. We feel bad about that. We're going to be looking for ways to make it up to someone later," Hatlestad said.
Organizers encouraged those turned away Saturday night to return Sunday, when the fair’s last day will operate until 11 p.m.
The county says it'll review everything that happened this weekend to make sure next year's fair goes more smoothly.
Tickets for the fair cost $15.