Blame concert fees on rising entertainer costs, 4-H Fair organizers say
JANESVILLE—Charging extra for some main stage acts has helped the Rock County 4-H Fair break even, fair board President John Quinn said.
“The reason we started doing that is because the entertainers cost so much nowadays it's really hard to find entertainment we can financially justify,” he said.
“The problem is the cost of these acts at the fairs is just increasing and increasing,” fair board entertainment committee's chairwoman Julie Johnson said. “If we want the more popular recent acts, we have to charge people to see them.”
Quinn said some acts can cost $50,000 or more. Charging fair-goers more for those shows allows the fair to break even, he said.
The fair three years ago started charging extra for some main stage acts. This year, four of the six main stage acts cost an additional $10 to $15.
“It's just gotten to the point where you either raise fair tickets … or you're gonna have to pay something for the entertainment,” Quinn said. “We just plainly would not be able to make it unless we made the fair tickets quite a bit higher, and we really didn't want to do that."
The board tries to be strategic in choosing which acts will carry an additional charge, Johnson said. Lonestar performs for free Friday night, which is the day seniors get discounted admission into the fair.
Quinn said Lonestar might have cost nearly as much as other acts to book, but the fair board chose to make the show free to draw seniors.
Variety Attractions entertainment booking agency helps the board pick acts each year. The agency recommends performers based on the fair board's budget, and the board decides who to contract, Johnson said.
The board booked Florida Georgia Line on a recommendation from Variety Attractions. The band became huge in the nine months between the booking and its performance last year, which set a one-day fair attendance record.
The free show was so popular that people jumped the fence just to see them, Quinn said.
“We don't always have the perfect alignment, but last year (we did),” Johnson said.
“That happens every 15-20 years, you hit a lucky shot,” Quinn said.
The board booked Garth Brooks and N'Sync in the past and saw similar results, he said.
Sometimes the bands and musicians' popularity grows so fast they expect more compensation by the time they perform at the fair, Quinn said.
“You book them, and by the time they get here, they want more money, but they have a contract,” he said.
The contracts have helped the fair board avoid legal issues, Johnson said.
“Their contract is their contact, and they understand that,” she said.
The fair features plenty of country music, but Johnson said she hopes George Thorogood will attract rock fans.
“We do try to book acts that will appeal to the broadest amount of people. Country seems to draw the people in,” she said.