By Linda Kor
The Navajo County Fair Board met last week to discuss the results of this year’s county fair. While each department reported overall success, President Mike Sample stated that the preliminary numbers indicated attendance was down, but only slightly.
“Each year the fair events continue to grow and get better. So far the numbers indicate we were down approximately $132 over last year, which is just a preliminary number from gate sales,” he explained. At $4 per person, that equates to a decline of 33 visitors over last year, or less than one percent.
According to Sample, county fairs overall are showing a decline in visitors and that in comparison, Navajo County has done very well. Coconino County Fair reported a five percent decrease in attendance this year and while Apache County Fair does not charge admittance to their event, making it difficult to track the number of visitors, organizers stated that they felt the numbers were similar, if not greater than last year.
Although receipts from the entry gates may indicate fewer visitors, in actuality more people may have attended the Navajo County Fair, but did not pay each day they visited. A different colored wristband is provided for each day of the fair, plus another wristband for each event being attended. The ability of security to keep track of who paid when visitors could be wearing multiple wristbands may have allowed people to enter the fair without paying.
A letter was submitted to the board by the White Mountain Meals on Wheels organization expressing disappointment regarding organization of the admission gates. The group, along with the White Mountain Garden Club and the Show Low Senior Center, volunteered to operate three of the gates in order to receive a portion of the receipts for their various organizations. According to the letter, the groups did not feel that the gate operations were well organized and that the wristbands provided to show admission were ineffective.
“The gates are hard, especially with four different wristbands. We will have to revisit this issue and see about finding another way to show people have paid. It’s confusing for security, as well,” Sample noted.
Sample reported that a more detailed financial report regarding the fair would be available at the November meeting.
The board also received a letter from the Holbrook Painted Desert Kiwanis Club, which also operates the admittance gates, thanking the board members for their hard work and expressing their appreciation for being allowed to take part in the event.
Regarding the events themselves, directors reported that all went well. The rodeo had 547 contestants and the junior livestock sale was successful, for the most part.
“I’d say that the kids with steer projects probably lost some money, but the hogs probably made some,” said Jimmy Crosby, who noted that the kids put in a great deal of work to bring their livestock to market.
Although it’s common for out of state cowboys to compete in the rodeo, this year there were several out of state competitors for the lawnmower races, which also had an increase in attendance, and two competitors from Mesa for the Demolition Derby.
The entertainment received mixed reviews, and it was suggested by several board members that more strolling and stage entertainment be sought next year for the younger kids attending the fair.
Later in the meeting the board entered into executive session to discuss items on the expenditures report, after a request to do so was made by board member Rusty DeSpain. Upon return into regular session, the board voted unanimously to accept the expenditures.
In other action Oct. 2, the board:
* Approved a facilities request to host the Dinéland Senior Rodeo finals on Oct. 19.
* Approved the hiring of a temporary employee at minimum wage for up to 40 hours per week until arrangements can be worked out with Navajo County to provide a temporary employee.
* Approved the 2014 dates for barrel racing.
* Authorized the payment of dues to the Arizona Racing Commission.
* Authorized Mina Henning to attend the Professional Rodeo and Cowboys Association Convention, and Henning and up to three board members to attend the Arizona Fair Association Convention.
By Linda Kor