With the 2018 fair in the books, the planing for the Muhlenberg County 2019 Fair is well underway says Darrin Benton, President of the Fair Board. Benton has spent much of the last 30 years involved in fairs, both at the local level and as County Fair Coordinator with the Department of Agriculture. Benton also serves on the board with The Kentucky Association Of Fairs And Horse Shows, making fairs a life’s work in progress.
Attendance for the 2018 fair was estimated at 8,500, just a little lower than the last three years. “Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were in line with other years, with the weather being a factor both Tuesday evening and Saturday. The rain understandably keep people away Tuesday, and Saturdays’ heat kept other folks away” Said Benton. In effort to increase attendance, the board will extend their marketing efforts to areas outside our county. “Many of the surrounding areas have had to make the hard choice of having the fair, or having the carnival, but not both. The main reason that Muhlenberg County Fair has been able to grow and improve, is because of the sponsors and volunteers” said Benton.
The Fair Board is made up of 33 volunteering members of the community, and expecting very little attrition this year, he predicts the majority will be serving on the 2019 board as well. “Many of our board members hold full time jobs and positions in our community”. Youth members also play an intricate part of the success of the fair because of their dedication spent volunteering with the youth board. Currently, as many as 8-10 of the adult board members started out as youth board members. This is unique to other fairs that are primarily run by civic groups such as the Lions Club or the JayCees Club; where youth are not provided the opportunity to learn and serve, the way they are welcomed in this community.
“Measurable feedback from the community is one tool the board uses to see what the everyone wants to see at the fair each year.” Benton says “on any given night, if there are 1000 people that come through the gate only 35-40% of the information and registration slips are filled out and entered into the cash drawing. For the 2018 fair, three $500 and two $1,000 cash prizes were given away. The slips are handed out to attendees at the gate, and turned in near the exhibit hall, driving traffic toward the exhibit hall, in efforts of increasing visits to the hall. Nine or ten years ago the hall was added, utilizing grant funding to get it built. The fair board owns the building, and the county maintains control of it. Volunteers from the Homemakers Club staff the exhibit hall during the fair, to make sure someone is always around, so that fair-goers can look at the different hand crafted items. Many of these items will then make their way to the State Fair competitions.
The fair board likes to have most of the contracts for the coming fair all in place by January, having already booked the tractor pulls for 2019 fair, to be held the second week of June.
Belle City Amusements of Deltona Fla. has been providing the rides for the fair for 20 or so years. “Our fair is the smallest fair they play. Later into their fair season, and we would simply not be able to get them. It’s difficult to book a carnival of their size, because of the expense of owning and operating the rides. They have to depend on a certain number of people coming through the gates.” Benton estimates the value of the rides that come to our fair to be in the seven to eight million dollar range. Most of the larger rides sell for $250,000. to $500,000 each.
“One expense that isn’t often considered, is the sled that’s used for the tractor and truck pulls. That piece of equipment alone costs $3,000 rental for two nights. New it would cost $300,000 dollars. It’s estimated that the tractor pull costs the fair board $18,000 to have the pull for two nights. Talk about risk, when the sled owners/operators get there and it starts raining, at that point you owe them mileage, once the first tractor is hooked on, the board is on the hook for the entire expense of the show. There is a certain amount of risk with any event. That’s why we look over the forms, so we know that people are interested in an event, and will likely show up.” he added.
For four or five years now, Second Baptist Church has hosted a meal for the carnival employees. One day during lunch a meal is catered by church members reaching out to serve the fair workers. The message this year was delivered by Bro. Bob Thurman, with translations being provided by Juliana Carter and it pleased the fair workers once again. New this year, the carnival employees, and the clown circus hosted a “Special Needs Day” where special needs individuals and one care giver were granted free admission to the carnival, provided a meal then given a special show from the clown circus. “The carnival employees, the fair board and the youth fair board enjoyed it as much as the attendees” Benton said. Both are expected to happen again in 2019.
“One of the best aspects of being involved in the fair, are the volunteers. They may be assigned a certain activity, once that’s completed, they all seem to move in and out of different positions as needs arise. Always willing to help one another, everyone trying to make it the best fair ever. More of the board was engaged this year than ever before. We want people to give us their feedback, what they liked about the fair what they didn’t like about the fair.” says Benton. When asked what his favorite part of the fair was, he quickly added “the livestock shows and lemon shake-ups.” A winning combination for sure.
— Kathrine Newman, myKYNews.com