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County fair sees fewer faces this year

Heidi Rice
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent
ALL |

RIFLE, Colorado ” What happens if you put on a party and not many people come?

That’s what some folks thought happened at this year’s Garfield County Fair. But the numbers reveal otherwise.

“It started out somewhat of a disappointment when (a portion of) the concert was canceled,” said Dale Hancock, director of general services for Garfield County.



But Hancock said attendance at the fair, which ran from Aug. 1-9, was definitely down and said the reason for that was two-fold.

“The major issue is that if the headliner doesn’t show up for the concert, that’s a big deal,” he said. “The other is that the concert and the livestock show are usually at the end.”



This year, the concert was scheduled for the first weekend of the fair.

Hancock said he helped organize the fair for six years and the grandstands were full with people who attended the concert, followed by the livestock auction on the same night.

“But the concert was at the beginning of the week this year and the auction was at the end,” he said. “If the concert had been at the end, (the cancellation) wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But when you split it like that, it made the under attendance a big deal.”

While a concert still took place, it was scaled back when one of the co-headliners, Chris Cagle, a country singer, canceled that morning due to an illness. The other co-headliner, Night Ranger ” a rock and roll band ” still played, along with another band found at the last minute to replace Cagle.

Other events happened that were out of anybody’s control.

The carnival, which was scheduled to run through the weekend, left early due to a double booking with the Eagle County Fair.

“They pulled out one day early,” Hancock said. “In past years, the carnival was there for four to five days. And it wasn’t a very dynamic carnival. What they had was for 3- to 7-year-olds. They didn’t really have a draw for the teenagers and young adults.”

Both District 3 county commissioner candidates, Mike Samson and Steve Carter said there weren’t a lot of people for them to talk to at the fair. Others also wrote letters to the editor saying that the fair did not seem to be as well attended and was a disappointment.

Vendors who were scheduled to be at the fair for the full week, began to pull out early.

Attendance at the Junior Rodeo was also down by about 40 percent, but that was probably because a Little Britches rodeo was being held elsewhere on the same weekend, Hancock said.

“The lesser attendance at the Junior Rodeo was because of a conflict because the Little Britches rodeo is a bigger event,” he said.

Part of the reason for the lower overall attendance at the fair might also have been that the fourth annual Garfield County Air Fair was being held on the same weekend.

Despite the inclement weather, an estimated more than 10,000 people turned out at the Garfield County Airport to watch the shows, according to airport manager Brian Condie.

“We probably would’ve had more if the weather hadn’t been so bad,” he said. “But we got lots of good comments from most of the people.”

Hancock speculated whether the air show is just more popular than the fair events.

“I can’t say why there was a greater draw to the Air Fair on Saturday than the rodeo,” he said. “Maybe there’s just a greater draw to aviation than rodeo.”

While attendance at the fair may have been down, the numbers show that the fair was still more profitable this year than last.

In 2007, the Garfield County Fair had $30,600 in sponsorships. This year it garnered more than $50,000, according to Hancock. Likewise, advertising was up by about $5,000.

There was $2,200 in vendor fees in 2008 versus $1,400 in 2007.

“In those areas, we did better,” Hancock said. “When the concert went south, a lot of the vendors pulled out, although they had paid. But it made the fair look less active, less busy.”

The auction also did well this year with $500,000 earned for 198 animals over $410,000 earned in 2007 for 170 animals.

Jim Sheets, current president of the Garfield County Fair board didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

In the next county to the east, the Eagle County Fair attracted record crowds, according to a report by the Eagle Valley Enterprise newspaper.

The rodeo grandstands were packed with about 2,300 people, nearly filling the stands to capacity. About 7,400 people turned out for the rodeo performances, according to fair manager Brad Higgins.

Higgins attributed the success to the Eagle County Fair to a number of factors.

“The (Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) drew really well,” he said.

Partnerships with local media and corporate sponsors also contributed to the success of the event, which pulled in about $100,000 from corporate sponsors.

Even though the number of attendees for the Garfield County Fair may not have been as high as they would have liked, Hancock says the fair was still successful, although the exact calculations of expenditures to revenues have not yet been calculated.

“It was successful, but we haven’t finalized (the numbers) yet,” he said. “We know we brought in more, but we don’t know how much we spent.”


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