With “fantastic” weather and entertainment, the Washington Town & Country Fair had a successful five-day run, said Chairman Brian Gildehaus.
“When you spend a year preparing and planning for a major outdoor event, and then the weather is as pleasant as it was, it’s hard to go wrong,” Gildehaus told The Missourian Monday afternoon.
“The weather was perfect, people came out and everything ran smoothly — it was just a great event overall,” he said.
The Fair kicked off Wednesday and ran through Sunday at the city fairgrounds.
Although the temps did rise over the weekend, with Sunday being the warmest, it didn’t deter the crowds or dampen their appetites with both food and beverages up 20.8 percent and 38.5 percent respectively.
Overall, the 2018 Fair is up about 17.5 percent in total gross receipts from last year, based on preliminary reports, said Gildehaus.
Total receipts are estimated at $1,603,467, as compared to $1,364,136 in 2017.
“We feel very, very fortunate looking at these numbers, but we had a full week of good weather and that really changes things,” Gildehaus said. “Last year we had heavy rains on Saturday and Sunday so it’s not a true comparison from year to year.”
Preseason ticket sales this year totaled approximately $395,367, which was down about 9.6 percent. On-site ticket sales were $375,361. Combined, ticket sales are up 7 percent.
Gildehaus and his co-chair, Jason Unnerstall, were quick to point out that the Fair is not about the numbers, but the memories made and entertainment value for fairgoers.
“And I think this year’s Fair offered plenty of that,” Gilde-haus said.
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 65-70 percent of the revenue to the community in the form of locally sourced materials, services and volunteer donations.
“At this time, we are projecting the estimated revenue to come in around $2.4 million when you include sponsorships and the auction,” Gildehaus said. “Which is great news for the Fair and community.”
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 totals, which include gates, concessions and other income for the 2018 Fair as compared to last year:
Wednesday — $162,225, up 21.4 percent.
Thursday — $175,831, up 16.5 percent.
Friday — $279,363, down 7 percent.
Saturday — $417,574, up 82.3 percent.
Sunday — $167,748, up 48.8 percent.
Gildehaus said he feels the additional Main Stage concerts — nine bands over five days — added value and helped boost attendance, especially Saturday night with headliner Jake Owen along with Chris Janson and Jordan Davis.
“We had over three hours of concerts Friday and Saturday night and the fans seemed to love it,” he said. “The Saturday night show was the highlight of the Main Stage this year. Jake Owen filled the grandstands and had an electric show with a lot of video effects. It was a huge success. The other singers with him also were great.”
Gildehaus estimated about 16,500 people were on the grounds for the concert.
Friday night’s concerts featuring Whiskey Myers, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, and Chris Knight also were great shows, he said, but didn’t draw as big of a crowd as Saturday.
Unnerstall said Friday in general was a slower day with people coming out later.
Closing out the Main Stage entertainment Sunday night was country band Sawyer Brown, which drew a nice crowd, the chairman said.
“It’s an older group that’s back touring again and they put on a great show,” Gilde-haus commented.
The crowds for the bull riding events, tractor pulls and motocross in the motor sports arena over the weekend were huge, he noted.
“With the great weather, we had more local tractor pull contestants, which was great to see,” he said.
The midway also was crowded all five days of the Fair.
“The weather allowed the kids to stay out there all day,” Gildehaus said.
The Fair Board will hold a wrap-up meeting next week to assess what worked and what could be improved on and then planning will begin for the 2019 Fair.
Unnerstall said only half-kidding that it would be great to have Jake Owen back again. Booking the Main Stage entertainment will be a priority, he said.
He has already selected next year’s theme — Cheers to 90 Years — as the Fair marks its 90th anniversary. Prior to Sunday’s concert, T-shirts with next year’s theme were thrown out to the crowd.
Gildehaus and Unnerstall thanked their fellow Fair Board members, the city, parks department, ambulance, fire and police for their “generous support” of the Fair each year.
“I would also like to thank and recognize the Chamber staff,” Gildehaus said. “Without the continuity that the Chamber staff provides, the task of putting on this Fair would not be possible.”
The chairmen also said they are grateful to all of the fairgoers, the volunteers and the business community.