Postponed derby fails to make up for lost revenue
If the Leavenworth County fair board had a theme song, one might imagine it could be "Don't rain on my parade."
But after this year's soggy fair and dismal profits, "Don't rain on my demolition derby," might be more appropriate.
Each year, the demolition derby -- an evening filled with the roar of engines, the crash of metal and the shouting of fans -- is the fair board's single largest moneymaker.
And this year it was rained out. Then, on the first rain date, in September, the derby again was rained out.
And although the third attempt at the derby wasn't rained out, the attendance -- and profit -- didn't measure up to a fair-weekend derby.
David Todd, president of the Leavenworth County Fair Board, estimated that about 300 people attended the Oct. 1 derby.
"We usually pack the place," Todd said. "Usually there's probably over 2,000."
And the derby didn't attract as many participants as usual, he said.
"We generally run 60 to 70 cars altogether," Todd said. "I think we had 40, maybe 50. The numbers were down on the cars."
For fair officials, lower attendance and participation translate into less money.
"We probably just about broke even on it," Todd said, noting that sponsorships from businesses and individuals helped bolster the figures.
"We generally always make $8,000 to $10,000 off the derby," said Todd. "It's the best moneymaker that we have."
Proceeds from the fair and its events are used to maintain the fairgrounds and its buildings, Todd said. So events such as the derby are important.
"People don't understand," Todd said. "We do get some county money, but the county money only amounts to a little less than a third of our total operational expenses."
Last year, Todd said, the county's input to the fair was about $50,000.
Besides the derby, another big moneymaker for the fair is the carnival, which usually brings in $8,000 to $10,000, Todd said. That too, was down this year, as heavy rains fell on Friday and Saturday of this year's fair.
Todd compared the fair to a business.
"We don't ask for the world," Todd said. "We have a pretty conservative board. When I go in there (to the county) with our budget proposal, it's conservative. We try to identify our costs just from a maintenance point of view."
But the fair is tied to the weather.
"We'll bounce back," Todd said. "We'll do fine next year. We'll just keep rolling off of that."
Todd said the fair board meets at 8 p.m. the third Monday of every month except August, in the administration building of the fairgrounds. He noted that the public is welcome to attend.