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Publish Date: 3/29/2005

Fair to make cuts
County organizers plan changes after losing $24K in ’04

LONGMONT — Boulder County Fair, Livestock Show & Rodeo planners will scale back some of their expenditures, including entertainment and livestock panels, at this year’s fair in reaction to disappointing revenues in 2004.

The annual event took in $721,450 last year and saw an increase in total attendance, but ultimately lost $24,705, according to financial reports provided by fair general manager Kathy Lynch.

“We’ve just got to get ourselves ahead of the game,” Lynch said Monday. “We’re going after grant money this year, which we’ve never done.”

Organizers gambled by hosting a grandstand concert featuring country singer Pat Green at last year’s event. The concert cost $47,000 to produce, but only took in $37,000, Lynch said.

“Pat Green did awful for us,” Lynch said. “We’re not doing a concert this year. It was not a great budget decision for us.”

Other attractions will also see cuts. The fair board is spending less money to hire acts for the free music stage this year than in 2004, board member Heather August said.

“We don’t have as much money as we did last year. It’s that simple,” August said. “It’s not an across-the-board cut because you can’t cut back on insurance and things like that.”

But the fair board will put its insurance contract up for bid in hopes of landing coverage at a competitive price, Lynch said.

The fair may be forced to hire fewer livestock panelists and give smaller reimbursements to visiting clubs like 4-H and Future Farmers of America, Lynch said.

“I hesitate there,” she said. “That can be kind of a touchy issue for some people. But judges are expensive.”

The prospect of 4-H and FFA groups losing prize money isn’t appealing to those who assist the kids.

“It isn’t real cheap getting (the livestock) there,” said Tina Pohlmann, a 4-H parent and assistant superintendent of the fair’s crops show. “Kids don’t expect to make money, but they expect to at least break even.”

Fair officials are also considering holding fund-raisers in the coming months, and they may look for volunteer clowns and magicians instead of paid fairway entertainers.

Attendance at the annual event nearly doubled between 2002 and 2004, but the fair still lost money in 2003 and 2004.

New expenditures dragged down the bottom line in recent years. Insurance costs have increased about 20 percent each year since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Lynch said.

The fair also increased security staffing, built a larger petting zoo, installed handicap-accessible restrooms and established a Web site for online ticket sales, she said.

Attendance figures show the fair is building momentum despite losing money in the past two years, Lynch said.

A bullriding event, which debuted in 2003, is becoming increasingly popular. A bullfighting competition featuring top rodeo clowns will debut this year, she said.

Fair planners can also bank on their popular motorsports events such as the tractor pull and demolition derby, she said.

Lynch, the fair’s only full-time employee, keeps tabs on a number of different revenue streams. Over the course of a 45-minute interview at the converted farmhouse that serves as the fair’s headquarters, Lynch pulled records from three different computers in the cluttered office.

Fair officials were inconvenienced while planning for the 2005 event because a Kansas accountant took months longer than expected to process fair receipts before finishing in late January. But that did not prevent fair staff from planning this year’s event, Lynch insisted.

“When you do your budget from for the next year, you like to know how your event went this year,” she said. “We always had a good idea of it. It’s just nice to see it in black and white.”

The county fair is partially funded with taxpayer money. Boulder County commissioners chip in $50,000 each year, 20 percent of which goes toward hiring sheriff’s deputies for extra security.

Brad Turner can be reached at 720-494-5420, or by e-mail at bturner@times-call.com.

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