The 2018 Washington Town & Country Fair proved again to be a “connection point” for the community, said Brian Gildehaus, outgoing chairman.
Gildehaus gave the annual Fair report at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual breakfast meeting Thursday morning at the Washington KC Hall.
“With the legacy and rich history of our Washington Town & Country Fair, the blueprint for a successful and well-managed Fair is well established,” he said.
The tradition and reputation of the Fair, always held in early August, makes it a “showcase of our community,” he noted.
The blueprint includes family-based entertainment with games, a carnival and contests, he said, along with motorsports events, food, concerts and the livestock and agricultural exhibits.
Gildehaus said that blueprint combined with great weather enhanced the Fair experience for all this past August.
The chairman provided some several measures of success, which includes a 4 percent increase in attendance over the past five years and 15 percent jump in concessions over the same time period; a strong focus on fairground improvement, maintenance and enhancement projects; three new volunteer groups participating; and development of several initiatives to enhance the overall fairgoer experience.
Total revenue for the 2018 Fair set a new record at $2,339,124, up about $165,947 from the previous year. The 2017 revenue was $2,173,177. In 2016, the Fair reported a then record revenue of $2,303,333.
It is the sixth consecutive year that Fair revenues have exceeded $2 million.
Expenses for the 2018 Fair came in at $2,123,058, up from $2,086,351 in 2017. Expenses totaled $2,170,718.70 in 2016.
Gildehaus said the 2018 Fair posted a profit of $216,066 — up about $129,240 from 2017 and a 10.4 percent increase over the five-year average.
“The Fair Board and its stakeholders are thrilled with these results,” Gildehaus said.
The fair chairman stressed the financial performance is only part of the story.
“The Fair’s impact on the community is a large component of the Fair’s mission,” he said.
More important than any record being set, he noted, is the amount of money being funneled back into the community.
For the 17th consecutive year, the total economic impact of the Fair has topped the $1 million mark at $1,569,453 — a 11.5 percent increase over the five-year average.
This beats the previously set record from 2014 which totaled $1,543,547.
The local impact in 2017 was $1,316,056.53; $1,336,409 in 2016; and $1,423,678 in 2015.
The local economic impact includes money spent on capital improvements; supplies and services purchased from area merchants; money earned by school, civic, church and service organizations; salaries paid to the Chamber staff; and prize money paid out to exhibitors and contestants.
“We are happy that the Fair once again delivered a positive impact both socially and economically,” Gildehaus said. “Over the past 10 years, the Fair has consistently returned two-thirds of its revenue to the local community . . . the economic impact is something to be very proud of and something that we will continue to work to enhance.”
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.
Gildehaus said the Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction, which includes market steers, hogs, lambs and milk, paid out $473,159 — a new record.
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.
Donations and contributions to local service organizations also set a record at $157,535. In 2017, $146,869.59 was paid out, the previous record.
These are the funds paid to schools, churches and civic groups which work the gates, concessions and parking lots during the Fair.
In 2016, donations to these organizations totaled $145,299, and in 2015, donations totaled about $139,434.
Supplies and services purchased through local businesses totaled $610,619, up from $561,726.11 in 2017 and $536,442 in 2016. This includes Chamber salaries, labor for cleanup and data entry.
The Fair also made capital improvements to the fairgrounds totaling about $31,766, down slightly from $36,711.33 in 2017.
Gildehaus 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 also are grateful to all of you, 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.”
Gildehaus also recognized three retiring Fair Board members — Scott Mentz, Ryan Meyer and Joe Maniaci — for their huge contributions to the success of the Fair.
With the books closed on the 2018 Fair, Gildehaus said the board will now turn its attention to prepare for the 2019 event. He then introduced the 2019 Fair Chairman, Jason Unnerstall.