The best indicators of a successful Fair are the smiles on the faces of Fairgoers, said Washington Town & Country Fair Chairman Jason Unnerstall.
“And we saw lots of smiles all five days,” Unnerstall told The Missourian Monday afternoon.
“Overall, we’re really happy with how it all went,” he said. “Everything ran so smoothly and the weather was just about perfect. We had a little bit of rain Sunday evening, but other than that, we couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
The Fair opened Wednesday morning and ran through Sunday evening at the city fairgrounds.
As expected, Saturday was the biggest day with large crowds overflowing the Main Stage area for the Styx concert.
Unnerstall and his co-chair, Jon Ballmann, said the Fair was a huge success this year and the last 89 years due to the countless volunteers who work the parking lots, gates, games, concessions and “everything else in between.”
“So cheers to 90 years and more importantly, our volunteers,” they said. “This is a community event and it takes everyone. It’s also great to see the local economic impact of the Fair.”
Based on preliminary reports, the 2019 Fair is down about 2.96 percent overall in gross receipts from last year. However, the 2018 Fair receipts were up significantly from 2017, which experienced a lot of rain on the weekend.
Total receipts this year are estimated at $1,446,306, as compared to $1,490,392. This total includes preseason tickets sales.
The chairmen said the crowds for the Main Stage concerts Friday and Sunday were smaller, which likely contributed to the drop.
Total receipts were up Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday as compared to last year.
Advance season ticket sales this year totaled about $373,341, down about 5.5 percent from 2018. But on-site tickets sales were up about 5.7 percent at $359,265.
Although the crowds were down slightly overall, those who came out were hungry with food receipts up from last year at $411,741, as compared to $408,131.
“I think that was due to the great weather. People came out earlier and many ate lunch and dinner on the grounds,” Unnerstall said.
Beverage sales were down about 8 percent at $301,401, compared to $328,189.
Unnerstall was quick to note the Fair is not about the numbers, but the memories made and value for Fairgoers. He said the Fair is unique in that one ticket price includes all of your entertainment, rides, exhibits, motor sports shows and other activities.
The actual Fair profit won’t be known until all bills are paid, the chairmen noted, but over the last 10 years the Fair has historically returned 65 to 70 percent of the revenue to the community in the form of locally sourced materials, services and volunteer donations.
The final Fair report will be given in January at the annual Washington Area Chamber of Commerce business meeting. The Fair is a division of the Chamber.
Here are the preliminary daily receipt totals, which include gates, concessions and other income for the 2019 Fair as compared to last year:
Wednesday — $152,054, up 1.78 percent.
Thursday — $156,807, up 0.56 percent;
Friday — $238,929, down 5.75 percent;
Saturday — $396,328, up about 2.18 percent;
Sunday — $129,451, down about 10 percent.
Unnerstall said Saturday was the biggest of the five days in terms of crowds, receipts and concessions, which he attributes to the concert and truck pull.
“Saturday was just an awesome day all the way around,” he said. “We had large crowds in the motor sports arena for the tractor pulls and Styx was huge.”
The chairmen said the rock band put on a “phenomenal” show and the crowd seemed to love it.
“Styx was definitely the big draw and the tractor pull always brings in a crowd,” he said. “For the day, we had about 14,600 scans at the gates.”
The Main Stage lineup opened with Christian singer Micah Tyler Wednesday night following the queen contest. The chairman said he drew a small crowd and the Fair Board may rethink the opening night entertainment.
On Thursday night, it was country duo LOCASH, and Unnerstall said they put on a great show and even stuck around to mingle with fans afterward.
The turnout for Friday night’s three-band country music concert was light, the chairmen said, which was disappointing. They said the bands put on great shows, but just didn’t draw the fans.
However, on the other end of the fairgrounds, the Lucas Oil tractor pulls packed the stands Friday night.
Unnerstall said there were about 11,000 ticket scans on Friday.
Country music singer David Lee Murphy closed out the big-name entertainment Sunday night, which also drew a light crowd.
“It started raining earlier in the evening and that might have kept some people away,” Unnerstall said. “We had about 8,100 (tickets) scans for the day. The stadium motocross had a nice crowd.”
Ballmann said the Fair Board will re-evaluate the mix of music offered for next year.
“We were heavy on country this year, but that might change,” he said, adding the Fair Board already has made offers on entertainment for 2020.
The special exhibits this year, including the 9/11 Never Forget mobile trailer, shark show and remote control racing, were all well received, the chairmen said.
The Cheers bar, which played off the Fair theme and TV show was “the place” to be, said Unnerstall, who helped construct the bar with fellow Fair Board members.
Ballmann said the bar is being stored and will be brought back again next year. There’s also a possibility the R/C racing could return as well.
Agri-Land was another popular spot for families, the chairmen said, along with the Family Fun Center which had Legos out for children to play with all five days.
The new carnival company did a great job, Unnerstall said, and the lighted Ferris wheel really set the midway off.
The livestock shows and auction all ran well, he said, and the support from the business community was amazing.
Another popular event was the Brewfest & Wing Ding event Sunday, which drew a big crowd and may require more room next year.
“People had a lot of fun, no matter their age,” Unnerstall said. “And that’s what the Fair is all about.”
The Fair Board will hold a wrap-up meeting later this month to assess what worked and what could be improved on and then planning will begin for the 2020 Fair.
Ballmann said next year’s theme will be “Just Dig It,” a nod to his grading and excavation business.
Prior to Sunday’s concert, T-shirts with next year’s theme were thrown out to the crowd.
The chairmen thanked their fellow Fair Board members, the city, parks department, ambulance, fire and police for their “generous support” of the Fair each year. They also recognized the Chamber staff for its hard work.
“And again, cheers to our volunteers,” Unnerstall said. “We are so grateful to all of the Fairgoers, the volunteers and the business community.”