Concerts give fair edge

Scorpions-Dokken sell-out, 2 other amphitheater shows turn $90,000 profit

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The Scorpions and their hit “Rock You Like a Hurricane” brought a storm of ticket sales to the Clark County Fair in its first year hosting all of its big-name concerts at the adjacent Sleep County Amphitheater, fair officials said Tuesday.

If you go

• What: Clark County Fair.

• Hours today: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

■ Where: 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.

■ Admission: Adults, $10; seniors 62 and older, $8; kids 7-12, $7; kids 6 and younger, free; parking, $6; C-Tran shuttle, $2 per person round trip from area park-and-ride lots.

■ Carnival: Noon to 10 p.m., unlimited rides, $25.

■ Grandstands: Extreme Big Air Motorcycles & Motocross Challenge, 2 and 7:30 p.m., free with fair admission.

■ Other highlights: Haley Sawyer and Jared Brannan, at noon; Jest in Time Circus of Fools featuring Topper Todd and Li Li Zucchini, 4 p.m.

■ Pets: Not permitted, except for personal service animals or those on exhibition or in competition.

■ More information: www.clarkcofair.com or call 360-397-6180.

The fair’s three headlining acts at the amphitheater sold enough tickets to garner about $90,000 in profit, even after paying for several smaller free bandstand shows inside the fairgrounds, said Justin Kobluk, executive director of the Clark County Events Center.

The Scorpions, with opening band Dokken, were on their farewell tour, and sold out the 9,000 $20 to $35 tickets (which included the $10 fair admission for that day) a month and half before their show Saturday night, he said. The amphitheater holds 18,000, but the fair limits sales to 9,000, as the fair and concert venue share the same parking lot and Ridgefield access roads.

“It was history going away, with possibly this being their last tour, and it became a hot, hot tour,” Kobluk said. “We were selling tickets for $10 and $15 above the fair price, and I was seeing them for $600 and $800 on resale sites.”

Along with Saturday’s sellout, country artist Miranda Lambert sold 3,541 tickets to her Friday show and pop-influenced alternative rock band Boys Like Girls brought in 2,064 people to its Monday night gig.

Charging ticket prices that are up to $25 more than the $10 fair admission helps the Clark County Fair to draw in some bigger names, and also supports other fair activities — such as 4-H, animal shows and educational exhibits that aren’t designed to make money, he said.

For years, the fair held five concerts free of charge (beyond admission) on a bandstand within the fairgrounds, for about $250,000 a year with no cost recovery, Kobluk said.

When the Sleep Country Amphitheater was built in 2002, he said the venue’s private owners, Quincunx, agreed to let the fair use the site for its shows at no charge.

Last year, the fair held two shows at the amphitheater and several more on the bandstand, Kobluk said.

“We really dipped our toe in the water last year to see how it would play,” he said. “And it turned out to be extremely positive.”

Keevin Wagner, director of marketing for the Sleep Country Amphitheater, said “we’re happy with the partnership” with the fair.

Quincunx has lost millions in operating costs alone since it opened the amphitheater, despite a handful of sellout shows that included Coldplay and Jimmy Buffett. Quincunx pays the county $300,000 in annual rent.

The venue changed its name earlier this year from Amphitheater at Clark County to Sleep Country Amphitheater, for an undisclosed sponsorship sum from mattress company Sleep Country USA.

Wagner said having a weeklong window taken out of the summer concert series “makes it tricky from time to time.”

“Being that we’re open from June to the end of September, in August it would be nice to get a few shows under our belt,” he said. “But we do what we have to do.”

In addition to the headlining concerts, the Clark County Fair also kept some smaller bandstand shows on its schedule this year, for a total cost of about $50,000, Kobluk said.

He said some people expressed concern over the loss of free shows, but many also were happy to see the change.

“When’s the last time you went to a major concert for $10?” Kobluk asked. “We still believe in the value we’re giving everybody, even though it’s not free.”

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com.