Will Walworth County Fair raise a toast to beer?
Walworth County Fair Board officials are considering adding a beer tent to future fairs as an option to boost sales and generate more revenue.
The idea is among several options to increase revenue at the Walworth County Fair, including higher parking and admission fees.
But the beer tent seems to be the only controversial one so far, Walworth County Fair spokesperson Susan Pruessing said.
Pruessing said fair and community members have started to pop in at the fair office to offer their two cents. It's been about half for and half against the idea, she said, and the Fair Board will continue to seek feedback from the community before going any further with a resolution.
The board's consideration has upset a Whitewater church, whose members said any of the other options will be better than a beer tent.
In a resolution sent to the Fair Board, the Administrative Council at La Grange United Methodist Church wrote that the beer tent could result in unsupervised children running around the fairgrounds while their parents drink. It also could promote drunken driving, the resolution stated.
"If the fair cannot continue as a family friendly summer event, and if alcohol sales are the only way revenue needs can be met, then perhaps it is time to close the fair," the resolution reads.
But Pruessing said competition with other county fairs is rough and times have changed.
"It's not our grandfathers' fair anymore, when we were the only guys in town," she said. "We are struggling as many county fairs throughout the state of Wisconsin are struggling."
Pruessing said the beer tent idea came from a consultant hired by the board to analyze how to solve key financial issues fair officials face. They also looked at corporate sponsorships, but that alternative has been difficult to explore.
During this year's fair, UW-Whitewater and UW Extension researchers will run an economic impact survey of fair attendees to evaluate whether selling beer would be a viable option.
In the fall, the fair board will host hearings and focus groups with residents.
"Where we will go from there, I don't know," Pruessing said.
The 160th Walworth County Fair, scheduled to take place Sept. 2-7 in Elkhorn, will be dry.