Fair attendance, revenue increases

Youths lead their goats through the annual goat obstacle course competition at the Polk County Fair.

Stephanie Blair
Youths lead their goats through the annual goat obstacle course competition at the Polk County Fair.

RICKREALL — Attendance and revenue were up for the Polk County Fair in 2017, mostly the result of pleasant weather on the fair’s closing day, said Fair Manager Tina Andersen.

During the fair’s three-day run Aug. 10-12, there were 10,658 people counted coming through the gates. That’s up from 9,282 in 2016, Andersen said.

That count includes fair volunteers and others who don’t pay admission. Andersen said the real story is in paid attendance, which is up 11 percent.

She said attendance on Thursday — the day of the rodeo — was strong.

“It wasn’t a record, but still good,” she said.

Friday attendance was typical, she added.

“Then Saturday just boomed,” Andersen said. “I think the weather finally broke.”

The beer and wine garden performed well, up 40 percent from last year. Andersen said that is mostly due to an effort to make the garden more welcoming to the average fairgoer.

Instead of a tent that separated the beer and wine garden from the rest of the fair, this year featured picnic tables and places for families to sit while the adults enjoyed a libation.

“We wanted to open it up more so people aren’t squeezed into a tent and feeling punished for wanting a beer,” Andersen said.

She said since the fair added adult beverages to the fair, people have behaved themselves. The typical patron spends enough time in the beer garden to have a glass of beer or wine — not the whole day, Andersen said.

“We have such great families who come to our fair,” she said.

Beer and wine was served at the arena all three days, instead of on Thursday during the rodeo, which helped boost revenue.

Positioning the main stage in the center of the fair was a success that will be followed in the future.

“People wanted it moved, and we tried, but it didn’t work,” Andersen said.

There were a few complaints that stage entertainment was a little loud in the animal barns, which fair staff will work on remedying for next year.

Andersen said attempts to make the youth livestock auction move a little faster were successful — and without much loss in revenue.

The 2017 auction sold 33 fewer animal that last year, but was down 1 percent in dollars. Andersen said fewer animals meant higher bids for those that were part of the auction.

While attendance and revenue were both up this year, the annual fair will still lose money. Andersen said the fair loses between $10,000 and $20,000 each year. She said the losses will be on the lower end of that range this year due to Saturday’s success and cooler weather overall.

Andersen said with a number of county fairs happening in the region around the same time, the event isn’t a money maker for the Polk County Fairgrounds & Event Center.

“It’s the right thing to do for the kids,” she said.

The 2018 version of fair is taking shape already, with the highlight being a youth and adult talent show returning to the entertainment schedule.

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