The Del Norte County Fair “hit it out of the park this year,” breaking records in attendance, participation and revenue.
Nearly 20,000 people attended the four-day event earlier this month, a 25 percent increase from last year, said Kevin Hartwick, president of the 41st Agricultural District Board of Directors. As a result, the fairgrounds received $29,066 more in ticket sales this year than in previous years as well as $21,305 more in carnival and games revenue, according to Hartwick.
“Just between those two, that’s close to $50,000 in increases,” he said.
Just four years ago the community passed a .25 percent sales tax increase to keep the fairgrounds operating beyond 2016. According to Hartwick, the state had cut the amount of funding it allocated to the Del Norte County Fairgrounds by $180,000. The vote that established the sales tax increase also established a special district to oversee how that revenue is spent.
Hartwick said the amount of energy and effort both the special district board and the 41st Agricultural District Board, which is appointed by the governor, to increase the amount of revenue brought into the fair will wean it from depending on the sales tax increase.
“It’s a big deal, obviously, for the fair and the people, but it ties closely to the strategic plan that was adopted between those two fair boards,” he said. “It’s really important to say this is more than just a bunch of numbers.”
For the Del Norte County Fair, 2018 was a year of increases. According to Hartwick, the event brought in $14,000 more in concessions sales. The number of competitive exhibits such as baked goods, canned goods, textiles and produce, was up 5 percent at 3,141 this year. And there were 576 livestock exhibits shown this year, a 13 percent increase from the 2017 fair, Hartwick said.
“The total livestock sales in the barn was $144,345,” he said, referring to the Junior Livestock Auction held the last day of the fair. “That was a 23 percent increase from the prior year.”
When asked to speculate on the reasons for the record-breaking year, Kim Floyd, fairgrounds general manager and CEO, said the weather was perfect with no smoke, which probably drew people to the coast from smokey inland areas.
However, the number of advance ticket sales for the carnival was up from last year, which was a good indicator of what attendance would be like, Floyd said. Floyd noted those who purchased tickets for the rides in advance of the fair were primarily local residents.
“It’s a little Disneyland,” Floyd said of the fair. “There’s a lot of people who don’t get to go to theme parks and things like that and this is their opportunity to do that.”
Hartwick said another reason for the increase in attendance could be a lower unemployment rate and the ability of people to pay for things like going to the fair. He also credited the Del Norte County Visitors Bureau, which has initiated a public relations committee focused on drawing people to the coast. Meanwhile, the 41st Agricultural District and the Del Norte County Fairgrounds Recreation and Parks District boards are also focusing on increasing public awareness about what the fairgrounds offer.
Hartwick also credited efforts by fairgrounds staff to repaint and beautify facility buildings and its gardens. Public outreach in the form of traditional advertising and social media was greatly enhanced. Plus, a lot of people showed up for the Uncle Kracker concert, Hartwick said.
“Our fair manager, Kim Floyd, was able to negotiate that contract,” Hartwick said. “I think that was a real winner. It’s hard to pick acts that everybody’s going to like and that the act happens to be available for that time period — she did a great job on that.”
According to Hartwick, both the 41st Agricultural District and the Recreation and Parks District are working to build income streams. This includes the daily rental of the fairgrounds’ buildings as well as other business ventures. It also includes holding “great profitable events” outside the fair itself, he said.
One event fairground representatives hope will be a success is Straight-Up Racing’s Malicious Monster Truck Insanity Tour, which will be held Sept. 28 and 29. This event includes a Tuff Trucks Challenge with a $4,000 payout. Floyd said there will be monster trucks unlike any found elsewhere.
Floyd said Malicious Monster Trucks made an appearance to two sold-out shows at the fairgrounds in 2016. She said she’s anticipating this year’s show to be just as big.
As for this year’s fair, Floyd said she wanted to thank the community as well as the volunteers and sponsors.
“Especially it being my first solo fair,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m going to top it next year. I want to thank everybody who came out and supported the fair and supported what we did.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .