Archive for Wednesday, September 14, 2005

2005 fair: A financial washout

September 14, 2005

Financially, the 2005 Leavenworth County Fair was a dud.

In fact, said Jimmy Elder, treasurer of the Leavenworth County Fair board, the fair wound up with a $30,000 loss.

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David Todd, president of the fair board, attributed the loss to two factors -- Tuesday's concert featuring nationally known country music singers, the Warren Brothers, was not well-attended -- and Saturday's demolition derby was rained out.

Todd said this was the first time the fair had held a big-name Tuesday night concert with paid admission at the grandstand.

"We've been having free shows under the big top," Todd said. "We usually try to get local groups out, and the attendance is higher because it's free and usually if its' somebody local there will be a following that comes with them."

Todd said he thought it would be a while before the fair board attempted a large concert again.

"It's just one of those things," Todd said. "The fair is an entertainment type thing -- you have to try new things from time to time. This is one that just didn't work out. We won't revisit that for a while."

Rain, rain go away

Weather also played a role in this year's lower fair proceeds, Todd said. The fair was held Aug. 9-13. There were hot, muggy temps early in the week, and rainstorms at the end of the week. Both kept people at home.

Todd said that generally, when it's hot, people who stay home early in the week tend to go to the fair on Friday and Saturday nights, when they may not have to work the next day.

But by the weekend, the weather changed from hot to wet.

"The rain poured," Todd said, "It started Friday afternoon, stopped for a while -- about the time the livestock auction was supposed to start it just poured and it rained pretty much the whole night."

Because of the heavy rains, the fair board postponed the demolition derby -- the biggest crowd drawer, and moneymaker, of the fair.

It was the right decision, Todd said, noting the pit area had six inches of water in it.

"And the parking areas were just a muddy mess and we probably would have done more damage than we would have made on the derby," Todd said.

But it was a costly decision, he added.

"In a good year the derby will make us $15,000 or $16,000 clear," Todd said. "It's a huge draw, we always pack the stands full of people and it's our single biggest moneymaker of the year. That's why it's so important that we try to get it in, even though it will be at a separate time from the fair -- it will be harder to draw a crowd."

Fair officials rescheduled the derby for the following Saturday, but again it was rained out. It since has been rescheduled for 3 p.m. Oct. 1.

Todd is hoping attendance will be good.

"My goal is for us to clear $10,000 on it," Todd said. "If we can clear $10,000, I'll be quite happy. We can lick our wounds and get ready for next year."

Because of the fair's lower attendance in August, Todd said, the carnival percentage was down, as well.

"In a normal year we would probably get about $8,000 to $9,000 from them," Todd said. "It was half this year of what we normally get."

Not just the fair, but individual and organizations felt the effects of poor attendance also.

For instance, he said, the church that collects money for parking cars had about half the revenue as usual, Todd said.

Todd said the fair board uses saved money to make big repairs at the fairgrounds. For instance, he said, this year they improved all the roads.

"And for the next couple of years we won't be able to make big improvements," Todd said.

Despite the monetary setback, Elder said the fair is in sound condition.

"It's gonna set us back some," Elder said. "But we're going to make it all right. We had enough revenue stacked up that we could handle it. If we'd had been running close we'd have been in trouble -- we're going to make it fine."

Then Elder chuckled and added, "But if anybody wants to send us a donation, we'll take it."

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