CEO: Attendance shows need to keep fair alive with tax

The number of visitors to the Del Norte County Fair this year outpaced 2013's attendance despite a larger event up the road.

Based on preliminary numbers, attendance at the fair last week was up by 7 percent over last year, said Fair Manager Randy Hatfield. The event typically attracts 21,000andndash;28,000 people annually, but even more passed through the gate this year.

Although the fair pays for itself, generating a profit of $25,000 to $50,000, Hatfield said the annual event isn't enough to keep the grounds operating year-round. This year's fair kicked off the Campaign for Measure F, a seven-year 0.25-percent sales tax increase that would fund a special district to oversee the fairgrounds, he said. The tax measure needs a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

"(This) will then allow the new board of directors to come up with a permanent solution to get the fair on a pay-as-you-go basis," Hatfield said.

Hatfield credited the entertainment at this year's fair, which included a John Michael Montgomery concert on opening day and an X-Treme AirDogs dock diving competition throughout the event.

This year the main concert wason Thursday instead of Friday to avoid competition with the Cape Blanco Country Music Festival in Sixes, Ore., which occurred the same weekend. Hatfield said having the Montgomery concert on opening day contributed to the event's higher attendance overall.

"On that particular day we just about matched what we brought in during the first two days the previous year," he said, estimating attendance on the fair's opening day was about 5,000 shy of attendance in the event's first two days in 2013. "All we needed to do was really to hold our own throughout the rest of the fair."

Hatfield said attendance may have dipped slightly on Saturday because of the country music festival, but the demolition derby and Tuff Trucks events made up for it on Sunday.

Another reason for the higher attendance may be due to the 11,000 mailers the fairgrounds sent to local households, Hatfield said.

The fair also advertised heavily in local hotels, and Hatfield said he saw more people from out of the state and country than during previous fairs.

Visitors even came to the Del Norte County Fair from as far away as Europe, he said.

"We got people from Germany and Spain and France," he said, adding that he hopes the fair encouraged them to stay in the community a little longer, which benefits the local economy. "That's what the fair is all about keep people in town."

If Measure F doesn't pass in November, the fair will end after 2016 and the grounds will close, Hatfield said. California stopped funding fairs in 2011, and as a result, Hatfield said, the fair lost about a third of its budget. The Fair Board expects to be out of money after the 2016 fair, he said.

The fairgrounds currently houses five businesses, including a cell phone tower owned by Verizon and a radio tower belonging to BiCoastal Media, Hatfield said. The other businesses include Java Hut, Red Rover Ranch and Redwood Coast Transit.

If Measure F passes and a new special district is created to oversee the fair, its directors will research methods to fund the grounds into the future, including private partnerships, Hatfield said.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at