2012 Clark County Fair revenues wilted under heat

Second loss in manager's memory will be covered as short-term county debt

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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This year's Clark County Fair lost around $108,000 when blazing hot temperatures drove down gate admissions. But there is no plan to pull cash from the county's general fund to make up for the loss.

Instead, the county will push the amount onto a line of credit that funds operations at the Clark County Event Center. The fund pays for operations at the exhibition hall, the Dr. Jack Giesy Arena and the fair.

Last year, the county bailed out the event center fund with a $300,000 infusion from the general fund. The fair turned a profit of $54,000 that year, but that wasn't enough to sustain the event center fund.

Mark McCauley, county general services director, said the line of credit, which is essentially short-term debt, currently sits "north of $600,000." He said he didn't know the exact interest rate on the debt on Friday night.

The plan is to carry the debt forward with the hopes of having more profitable events in the future.

"The plan is to put on the best fair we can," McCauley said. "To entice people to come and just to shoot for a home-run of a fair. We also want to continue to market the venue as well. Try to increase revenues through other events."

McCauley said that while the debt isn't ideal, it's also not something that needs to be paid off immediately.

"It's a tool we use to keep the event center viable," he said.

This year's drop in attendance and revenue was an unexpected twist to the event center fund's finances. The hot weather saw attendance wilt from 251,892 in 2011 to 219,054 people in 2012.

Fair Manager John Morrison said the fair typically turns a profit.

"This is the biggest loss I've seen," said Morrison, who has worked on the fair for over 20 years. "The only other loss we've had was $11,500 in 2009, and that was because of bad rains. We typically make around $250,000 or $350,000. It goes up and down between those until a bad year comes around and the weather turns us upside down."

This year, the fair was budgeted to cost $2,911,963. Only $2,803,402 came through the gates.

McCauley said that if money was offered up again this year from the general fund, he would take it, but he's not waiting on the news.

"We would take it, if it was being given to us," he said. "I don't think there is an appetite to send more money to the fair. That may change, but as of right now, for 2012 there is nothing."


Erik Hidle: 360-735-4542; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com.