The 2014 Elmore County Fair is now in the books and attendance was up slightly from last year.
Our congratulations to the participants and volunteers for their hard, excellent work -- and to the fair board for putting air conditioning in the exhibit building.
But there are some things that need to be fixed for the fair to return as a genuine don't-want-to-miss-it destination event.
First, it needs a much better carnival than the blow-up toy thing we've seen the last couple years. It just doesn't have teens and young adults clamoring to take their dates down to it. It takes a while to line good carnivals up (they're often booked years in advance), and they can be a little pricey until the crowds improve and they know they're going to make money here, but the work needs to begin now to do it and the fair board needs to be willing to budget for it.
The midway needs to be redesigned to a more traditional pattern and fair organizers need to redouble their efforts to draw additional vendors to the fair. That's not easy, but they need to try.
The fair board has done a nice job upgrading the facilities over recent years, but now they need to move on and use their funds to upgrade the entertainment end of the fair, so it will be a much better attraction for people. It needs to be a place people want to go even if they don't have a friend or child or grandchild participating. It has to be more than a youth agriculture awards event. That's the least common denominator for a fair, and we're way too close to that point right now. It needs to be more.
We ran an unscientific poll in the paper recently, asking people why they didn't go to the fair. Polls like that can have very wide margins of error, but it was so overwhelming when people said they'd been to the fair before and didn't see a reason to go back, that the fair board has to take that into consideration.
The infrastructure foundation has been laid. Now it's time to build something that makes people want to go, that has them talking about the fair and penciling it in on their calendar.
The fair board has always said they're open to ideas. Help them by offering your own.
-- Kelly Everitt