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Walworth County Fair Board looks for revenue

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ANN MARIE AMES
October 16, 2009
— Nearly 100 people on Thursday night took the opportunity to get some face time with members of the Walworth County Fair Board.

The board hosted an informal public listening session to brainstorm and pick the publicís brain for ideas to increase revenues at the fair.


Since the meeting was informal, speakers were not required to state their name for the record. But here is a sampling of some ideas shared by the dozens who spoke Thursday night:


-- Charge a small fee for parking. Currently, the fair does not do so.


-- Install credit card machines as an option for admission at the gates.


-- Hold a discounted admission day for families. Or, give people a discount on tickets in exchange for a donation of non-perishable food items.


-- Charge for grandstand seating. This year, the fair created and charged for a limited number of reserved seats for musical acts in the grandstands. Many suggested lowering the admission price in conjunction with charging for grandstand entertainment.


-- Broaden the variety of main stage music to appeal to all ages. Merlyn Dahl of Delavan was one of several seniors who made this suggestion.


ďYou donít have anything in the grandstand for people my age,Ē Dahl said.


-- Host a wider variety of shows on the grounds during the year. Suggestions included a quilt show, a doll show, a home show, an industry expo or a bluegrass jam.


-- Hold the fair earlier in the summer to improve attendance. The Walworth County Fair takes place on the days before and including Labor Day.


The fairís finances are stable, and the fair does not have any debt, fair spokeswoman Sue Pruessing told the crowd. But increased revenues would give the fair more money for capital improvements and other expenses, she said.


The fair isnít planning any major capital projects, but a thorough upgrade of its water system is going to have to happen sometime soon, fair board President Ed Sokolowski said.


Attendance has been declining since 1999, according to fair data.


Revenues and expenses both have increased in that time. The actual profit changes yearly. As an example, the fair made $27,000 in 2008 compared to $164,700 in 1999. The 1999 profit was the highest in the 10 years of information provided to attendees.


The lowest was a loss of $38,500 in 2006.


Final numbers from 2009 are not yet calculated.



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