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Revenue up for Jackson County Fair

Attendance dipped for this summer’s Jackson County Fair compared to 2018, but revenues were higher, according to financial figures from the Jackson County Finance Department.

For this year, 62,000 people visited the fair that ran July 10-14 at The Expo in Central Point.

That compares to attendance of 65,000 people during the 2018 fair, which ran from July 11-15.

Revenue rose from $994,776 in 2018 to $1,080,675 this year, according to 2018 numbers and preliminary figures for the 2019 fair.

“We’ve come off a 2019 fair that was very successful,” said Jackson County Fair Board member Carolyn Ryder. “Everybody prayed for good weather, and we had that.”

On the last day of the fair in 2018, Southern Oregon was blasted with late-morning lightning strikes that sparked at least 145 fires and triggered a summer full of smoke.

Although smoke was still minimal July 15, 2018, carnival rides didn’t start until after the thunderstorm passed.

This summer was marked by relatively mild temperatures for Southern Oregon and only one large wildfire that sent smoke into the Rogue Valley for about one week.

The Milepost 97 fire near Canyonville started July 24, well after the fair was over. Firefighters eventually gained the upper hand and contained the fire at 13,119 acres.

Fair board member Kelly Geiger said The Expo is on solid financial footing, but is working to make sure events generate revenue.

Jackson County expects The Expo to be self-supporting and not rely on taxpayer support. The grounds are home to year-round events, not just the fair.

Fellow Fair Board member and technology entrepreneur Jim Teece has developed a program to better track the financial performance of events, Geiger said.

“This will allow us to move forward and just look at the facts. And if something doesn’t work, we’re not going to replicate it,” Geiger said.

The program covers a wide range of variables, including weather.

“It’s allowing us to hone in on what was successful, what wasn’t successful, and why,” Geiger said.

Even well-attended events are not necessarily profitable for The Expo, he said.

Earlier this month, The Expo was home to BrewFest, which included a concert by the nationally known country music band Old Dominion.

The county finance department is still working on final figures for the concert, which was attended by 5,975 people.

But Geiger said he expects the concert wasn’t a money maker for The Expo.

He said The Expo also dodged a bullet because bad weather rolled in the day after the concert.

“We have marginal to no returns on a very successfully attended concert, but we have ourselves exposed to an insane amount of risk,” Geiger said. “There would have been nothing we could do about that weather.”

He said the fair board needs to look at whether every event needs to pull its own weight financially. Perhaps less profitable events could still be held if they help augment other, more successful events — like the Old Dominion concert attracting people to BrewFest.

Ryder said the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo is another marginally profitable event for The Expo.

“It held its own,” Ryder said. “It’s always one of those struggling events where we usually just make it by the skin of our teeth.”

Rodeo attendance was 7,740 people in 2018 and 7,795 in 2019, according to the Jackson County Finance Department.

Revenue was $184,713 last year compared to $189,948 this year, figures show.

Helen Funk, director of The Expo, said her team works closely with the county legal department on talent contracts.

The Expo wants to be profitable and sustainable, while still meeting the desires of the community, she said.

Geiger said The Expo has been doing surveys after events to get feedback that will shape future choices.

Funk credited cooperation among The Expo team, a broad range of county departments and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office for The Expo’s success.

The fair board will have its annual public meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point.

For more information on events, visit attheexpo.com.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

A child enjoys a ride on the final day of the 2019 Jackson County Fair. Mail Tribune/file photo