The 2019 Washington Town & Country Fair was a great place to celebrate 90 years of volunteerism, said Jason Unnerstall, outgoing chairman, who coined the theme “Cheers to 90 Years” to mark not only the anniversary, but the community effort.
Unnerstall gave the annual Fair report at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual breakfast meeting Thursday morning at the Washington KC Hall. The Fair is a division of the Chamber.
With the legacy and rich history of the Washington Fair, the blueprint for a successful and well-managed event is well established, he said.
It’s that tradition and the Fair’s reputation which make it a community showcase, Unnerstall told Chamber members.
“The blueprint includes family-based entertainment with games, carnival and contests, motorsports events, food, concerts, livestock and agricultural exhibits,” he said.
Unnerstall said the blueprint and “blessing of great weather” enhanced the Fair experience for all this past August.
“The pleasant weather this year, just like in 2018, ensured the Fair’s great success,” he said.
Unnerstall shared some of the highlights, including an attendance of 52,000-plus people over the five days; updates made to the main food stand; strong concession sales which increased about 15 percent over the five-year average; and new volunteer groups.
Total revenue for the 2019 Fair was $2,316,485, down just slightly from the record set in 2018. The 2018 revenue was $2,339,124. In 2017, revenue was $2,173,177 and in 2016, the Fair reported a then record revenue of $2,303,333.
It is the seventh consecutive year that Fairrevenues have exceeded $2 million.
Expenses for the 2019 Fair came in at $2,142,046, up slightly from $2,123,058 in 2018. Expenses totaled $2,086,351 in 2017 and $2,170,718.70 in 2016.
Unnerstall said the 2019 Fair posted a profit of $174,439 — a decrease of $41,627 year over year, but the results are still 5 percent above the five-year average.
“The Fair Board and its stakeholders are very happy with these results,” he noted.
The financial performance of the Fair only tells part of the story, Unnerstall said.
“The Fair’s impact on the community is a large component of its mission,” he noted.
For the 18th consecutive year, the total economic impact of the Fair has topped the $1 million mark at $1,487,600 — down slightly from $1,569,453 in 2018, but an increase of 3 percent over the five-year average.
The 2018 Fair still holds the record. The local impact in 2017 was $1,316,056.53; $1,336,409 in 2016; and $1,423,678 in 2015.
The previous record was set in 2014 which totaled $1,543,547.
The local economic impact includes money spent on capital improvements, $19,918; locally sourced goods, supplies and services, $552,471; money earned by school, civic, church and service organizations, $177,322; prize money and premiums paid out to exhibitors and contestants, $63,425; Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction, $492,157; and scholarships, $7,750.
Unnerstall noted the money paid out for livestock at the auction, which includes market steers, hogs, lambs and milk, is a new record.
The previous record was set in 2018 at $473,159. The 2017 Fair paid out $450,573.25 to local youth and in 2016, $457,125 was paid out. The previous record was in 2015 when $457,898 was paid out.
In the last 10 years over $4 million has been paid out to kids in the community.
All but 1 percent of the money bid in the livestock auctions goes back to the youth exhibitors. The money held back is put into a scholarship fund for youth who show livestock.
In 2018, the Fair paid out $71,818 in premiums and prize money to contestants, along with $8,500 in livestock and Fair Queen and her court scholarships.
In 2017, $24,100 in premiums and prize money was awarded and scholarships totaled $9,250.
Unnerstall noted and the money paid out to the schools, churches and civic groups that work the parking lots, gates and consessions is up $19,797 — a 12.5 percent increase from 2018 and a new record.
The previous record was in 2018 with $157,535 in donations and contributions to local service organizations. In 2017, $146,869.59 was paid out. In 2016, donations to these organizations totaled $145,299, and in 2015, donations totaled about $139,434.
“We are happy that the Fair once again delivered a positive impact for our community,” Unnerstall said. “Over the past 10 years, the Fair has consistently returned two-thirds of its revenue to the local community. The economic impact that the Fair leaves the community is something to be very proud of.”
Unnerstall said the Fair requires a lot of input and a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice from so many. He thanked the Chamber, the city of Washington, the parks department, ambulance, fire and police for their generous support.
“We are thankful that the community has always embraced this event and has realized its value,” he said. “We are grateful to all of you (in this room), the business community of Washington for your support of the Fair. We as a Fair Board cannot thank you enough for all that you do.”
Unnerstall also recognized four retiring Fair Board members — Brian Gildehaus, Tom Coulter, Shawn Mayall and Kurt Poepsel — for their “huge contributions” to the success of the Fair.
“All four are passionate about the Fair and its success,” he said.
With the books closed on the 2019 Fair, Unnerstall said the board will now turn its attention to prepare for the 2020 event. He then introduced the new Fair chairman, Jon Ballmann.
Ballmann then presented the chairman’s plaque to Unnerstall, who he described as a great leader and friend.
As a lifelong resident, Ballmann said he’s honored to serve the community as the next Fair chairman and told the crowd to remember to “Just Dig It,” the 2020 Fair theme.