Clark County Fair saw jump in visitors, revenue

Good weather, key changes get the credit

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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After the 2012 Clark County Fair saw an operating loss of $108,000, Clark County's Director of General Services Mark McCauley said the goal was to work for a "home run of a fair" in the future to make up for the deficit.

Looking at the first returns for this year's fair attendance and revenues, it appears McCauley called his shot on the home run.

The final tally is still being processed, but officials report that the 2013 Clark County Fair shattered 10-year averages for attendance, gate revenue, carnival profit and food and beverage sales.

The 10-day fair brought 269,269 individuals through the gates. That translated to $821,066 in gate revenues.

Both numbers are up from their 10-year averages of 261,939 people attending the fair and $769,989 in gate revenues.

The carnival reported a gross of $1,222,576. Butler Amusements Inc., which operates the carnival, told Fair Manager John Morrison

that was an all-time record for the company.

Food and beverage sales also set an all-time high with $1,541,394 in sales.

"I think we delivered," McCauley said of the numbers. "We had a run of bad luck regarding the weather. Two years ago, we had a few rain days and last year we had some pretty amazing high temperatures. But this year, the weather cooperated. We don't have final numbers yet, but right now we're just very, very happy."

The operating loss of last year's fund was paid off earlier this year when Clark County commissioners authorized a general fund expenditure to pay off short-term debt at the event center site. That fund pays for operations at the exhibition hall, the Dr. Jack Giesy Arena and the fair.

A similar payment had been made in 2011 after a fair that only turned a profit of $54,000.

By clearing the debt, the county started anew with the hope for a big fair this year and operating the facility in the black.

And while final numbers aren't yet available, McCauley says he's confident they've turned a corner.

"With a good solid fair performance we hope that puts us back in self-sufficiency mode," McCauley said.

The fair's Morrison says final numbers should come in by mid-September, but he too is optimistic of seeing big financial returns at the fair.

"I'm pretty comfortable saying yeah, we had a good year," Morrison said. "I attribute the great interest to the near ideal weather … moving three free concerts back to the grandstand and realigning motorsports to move the demolition derby to Friday."

The budget for this year's fair budget was $3,042,000.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com