The Williams County Agricultural Society (fair board) saw a loss of funds with a smaller county fair this year.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered county fairs to be junior fairs only at the end of July, a little more than a month before the Williams County Fair was set to kick off in September.
The move meant most of the money-making aspects of the fair — such as grandstand events and non-food vendors — were canceled this year. However, in June, DeWine offered $50,000 from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to county fair boards.
“We’re still waiting on some bills to come in, yet, but I would say — wet finger in the air — even with the $50,000 we got from the ODA we’re probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $25,000 shy,” Matt Kennedy, fair board president, said in an interview Friday. “So, we have to pull that out of other areas.”
Previously, he had said it would take around $100,000 to run a junior fair, which just features 4-H projects and livestock shows.
On Friday, Kennedy said the costs are high, including: around $2,500 for utilities; trash pick-up, which was $1,800 for the trimmed back fair held last month; various service contract expenses, including for sound and an electrician, which run “a few thousand dollars” each; judge expenses usually run more than $3,000 a year; premiums paid to the kids, which usually cost around $5,000 to $9,000 a year; and liability insurance, which is based on attendance from the previous year’s fair, was $16,000 this year and ranges from $10,000 to $20,000.
Kennedy also said there were “all kinds of extra expenses” people don’t always see.
“I know a lot of (county fairs), it’s going to take three to five years to get out of the hole this year put them in,” he said.
The fair board dropped the gate fee for the fair this year and the public was allowed to go there for food and to walk through the livestock barns, but only those with a wristband could attend the shows, themselves.
“Most of the people who attended the fair would have been, I want to say probably 98% of them, were family members of livestock exhibitors,” Kennedy said. “There were some I saw come in to get some food, look around and then took off, but not very many.”
Exact numbers were unknown.
The fair board met on Thursday, Kennedy said, and voted on dates for the 2021 Williams County Fair: Sept. 11-18.
In addition, he said they approved some constitutional amendments to appear on the ballot for the fair board elections, which will be on Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The annual meeting will start at 4 p.m.
The amendments would change the time of the elections, moving it to the Monday of the county fair with the annual meeting on the third Thursday of October.
Another change would lower the minimum number of people on the board of directors from 18 to eight, to be in line with the Ohio Revised Code. There is no plan to downsize the current board, which currently has around 17 members after a few had to resign throughout the year. At the start of the year, Kennedy said there were 19 members.
He said membership for the society will be on sale during office hours until Oct. 22. They will then be stopped, per Ohio Revised Code.