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Attendance at Ark Encounter is finally picking up after a year lost to the pandemic. That’s not the Creationists’ fault, obviously, but the recovery has been slow for them just like everyone else, and the numbers today are still not as high as they used to be. And a recent attempt to boost summertime attendance hasn’t worked at all.

Thanks to a public record request by local paleontologist Dan Phelps, we now have the numbers for September. You can read more background about how it’s calculated here.

The bottom line? Ark Encounter had 64,301 paying visitors in September. That’s significantly higher than the 44,571 they had last September after the place shut down due to COVID on March 17, 2020, then opened back up later that summer. It means that their attempts to draw people in are finally on an upswing, though this month’s numbers still don’t match the ones they saw in September of 2019.

Here are all the attendance numbers we know along with the Safety Fee that Answers in Genesis has paid to the city of Williamstown. (The public nature of that fee is how we know the attendance numbers at all.)

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Month2017 (Fee)2018 (Fee)2019 (Fee)2020 (Fee)2021 (Fee)Notes
January 13,250 ($6,625.00)14,885 ($7,442.50)15,790 ($7,895.00)11,354 ($5,677.00)(Decrease from previous year: 4,436)
February 17,961 ($8,980.50)16,328 ($8,164.00)17,290 ($8,645.00)11,577 ($5,788.50)(Decrease from previous year: 5,936)
March 62,251 ($31,125.50)70,466 ($35,233.00)15,145 ($7,572.50)57,801 ($28,900.50)(Increase from previous year: 42,656)
April 67,613 ($33,806.50)79,908 ($39,954.00)0 ($0)64,479 ($32,239.50)(Increase from previous year: 64,479)
May 73,353 ($36,676.50)90,803 ($45,401.50)2,047 ($1,023.50)76,089 ($38,044.50)(Increase from previous year: 74,042)
June 113,901 ($56,950.50)124,230 ($62,115.00)40,434 ($20,217.00)109,694 ($54,847.00)(Increase from previous year: 69,260)
July142,626 ($71,313.00)135,922 ($67,961.00)160,124 ($80,062.00)57,632 ($28,816.00)134,945 ($67,472.50)(Increase from previous year: 77,313)
August106,161 ($53,080.50)98,106 ($49,053.00)104,350 ($52,175.00)46,562 ($23,281.00)83,826 ($41,913.00)(Increase from previous year: 37,264)
September83,330 ($41,665.00)69,207 ($34,603.50)73,541 ($36,770.50)44,571 ($22,285.50)64,301 ($32,150.50)(Increase from previous year: 19,730)
October93,659 ($46,829.50)89,434 ($44,717.00)86,988 ($43,494.00)49,835 ($24,917.50) (Decrease from previous year: 37,153)
November51,914 ($25,957.00)40,193 ($20,096.50)37,686 ($18,881.00)24,105 ($12,052.50) (Decrease from previous year: 13,581)
December36,472 ($18,236.00)46,400 ($24,200.00)37,880 ($18,940.00)34,273 ($17,136.50) (Decrease from previous year: 3,607)

Over the past year, Ark Encounter had to postpone on-site conferences. Like other tourist attractions, they’ve also missed out on Spring Break trips, summer vacations, and warmer weather attendees in general. Most workers at the Ark were also temporarily laid off. They finally reopened on June 7, 2020, but until now, very few people had any desire to visit, presumably due to COVID.

This is also interesting because Ham spent most of August promoting his “40 Days and 40 Nights of Gospel Music” festival, which he billed as the “largest Christian music festival in the world.” Looks like people just didn’t care — at least not enough to boost the attendance numbers to their earlier highs.

Keep in mind that the Ark’s parent company, Crosswater Canyon, received between $1 million and $2 million from the Paycheck Protection Program. And Ham also raised at least $1,135,009 in a separate fundraiser to offset COVID-related losses.

Finally, remember that actual attendance is higher than these numbers represent because kids get in for free, as do members with lifetime passes. But giving away freebies to children and life members doesn’t help the local economy as much as drawing in first-time customers who are ready to spend money or conference attendees who are there for another reason.

(Image via Shutterstock. Large portions of this article were published earlier)

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.