Fair manager reports attendance down, enthusiasm up

Mona Hill
Staff Writer

Due to a lack of quorum, the fair board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 25, did not officially take place. However, since they were there anyway, the four directors present engaged in a general discussion and report on the fair with manager John Steffanic.


In a follow-up telephone conversation, Steffanic said while grandstand event revenue didn’t meet his budget projections, he thought the fair overall just about broke even. He said final numbers were not available yet. (For a breakdown of fair revenues and numbers, see accompanying chart.)

Steffanic said fair attendance, paid and unpaid, was down slightly from 2009, with 17,014 coming through the gate. Of that number, 6,716 were paid admissions.

The fair manager attributed the difference of slightly more than 10,000 to livestock exhibitors, vendors and duplicate entries.

The state requires recordkeeping on the number of people coming through the gate whether they are returning after having already paid or not.

Gate receipts were down about $5,000 from 2009. Also down was attendance at grandstand events. Only 1,069 people attended the logging show, rodeo and concert.

On the other hand, the carnival and food concessions were up substantially. Pre-sale ticket books accounted for just under half of total gross sales.

Food concession gross revenues increased by more than $20,000, with fewer concessionaires this year. Steffanic said part of the difference was collecting a percentage of sales from vendors.

In the past, concessionaires and vendors paid a flat rate for space. This year, for the first time, the fair required a percentage of sales.

The total number of fair exhibitors remained stable despite marked gains and losses within the categories.

Home arts saw an increase in judged entries, 540 this year versus 358 in 2009. Future Farmers and 4-H livestock entries were down slightly, but non-livestock entries were down by about 50 entries.

Following Steffanic’s report, board members discussed possible reasons behind the numbers. Steffanic told directors he thought people were pleased overall with the fair this year.

Board member Howard Hughes thought given the economy, parents made a conscious choice to treat the kids to the fair, foregoing grandstand events. Others agreed given carnival and food sales.

Steffanic and the directors also discussed how to improve attendance at the grandstand, but came to no firm conclusions. Board president Thelma Olson said the fact the gate was unattended after events began contributed to poor ticket sales.

Steffanic was at a loss to understand poor attendance at The Trailer Choir concert. Steffanic had projected $40,000 in ticket revenues and realized only $5,118.

The previous night, in Siskiyou, the concert had sold out. Tickets for the group’s concert at the Lassen County Fair sold out as well.

The group is a rising star, winning Country Music Association awards and receiving plenty of airtime nationally.

Judy Madden of American Valley Speedway told the board members the races were well attended. Madden estimated 400 people attended in all, including staff, gatecrashers and complimentary attendance.

Directors also discussed the delay in opening the Home Arts exhibits Wednesday of fair week. The judges had not finished judging by the published opening time, resulting in more than a few disgruntled exhibitors.

Suggestions included judging on Tuesday, moving back the opening time to coincide with the carnival opening at 4 p.m. or changing to open judging, similar to the livestock judging.

Steffanic also addressed complaints about disability access to the livestock barns. He said the state requires 30 – 40 percent of grant monies to be spent on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Most of the $40,000 in funding this year was spent on grandstand renovations and on the required ADA access study.

In his telephone conversation, Steffanic said the livestock barns present a particular challenge. To comply with the required ratio of rise to distance, wheelchair ramps would extend into the roadway.

Other options include ramps at the rear of the barns where the ground is more level. Steffanic said challenges there included negotiating the required chutes and runs.

With the ADA study complete, Steffanic said he is awaiting the necessary funds to carry out upgrades. He thought that unless major renovation triggered an upgrade requirement, there was no requirement to be in compliance at present, even though the buildings in question are public buildings.

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