Sunday, August 03, 2008

It's Just Not Fair

I know I’ve been writing this every year, but it appears that the County Fair attendance was even lower than last year, which was abysmal. No crowds, lots of parking, other than the food court, the vendors saw little action. Again this year there appeared to be even fewer vendors. They are all indoors now. I should have counted, but I think there were fewer than ten booths that sold anything. Most booths were trying to sell ideas, or do charity raffles.

Many of the carnival rides were moving without passengers or sometimes only one kid. It reminded me (a South Park fan) of when Cartman bought an amusement park so he could go on all the rides without other people being there. The economics of his decision finally caught up with him as it may with our Fair.

It isn’t just our fair that has poor attendance; most are suffering the same fate. There was talk of selling the Washington County Fair grounds last year. Attendance at the State Fair has had a steady decline over the last decade and they are trying to do mall sorts of things to stop the bleeding. I wonder just how much longer our Fair can be viable.

I have heard comments about the current Fair Board being obtuse to some fundamental issues. I've heard that people with ideas are not welcome on the Fair Board by one member in particular. It makes me wonder what the real reason was why our last Manager left. Management seem to be doing a fine job with promotion and entertainment opportunities; the people simply aren’t coming. There are many volunteers that deserve the thanks from all attendees, from those in the ticket booth, and those that park the cars, drive the shuttle, empty the trash, and all the leaders. There is a lot of volunteer time spent out there.

Maybe it is time to sweeten the pot to get vendors to return. One thing that must be done is to make up with James River. I don’t know how that relationship went sour, but that is one fence that needs to be mended. More local businesses need to have incentives to come in and set up shop for a week. I know I personally supported local businesses that had a presence at the Fair.

If attendance continues its decline the County Fair may just become a weekend event for 4-H and FFA members and those who care. Maybe that's what it will take. Maybe it could rebuild from there into something that it once was. Maybe there needs to be an examination of the personal philosophies of the current Board members and see if the direction they envision is one that will build the Fair or cause its ultimate demise.

14 Comments:

Blogger Auntie said...

Doom, dispair and agony Sunday, is it?

I went yesterday just after 9am with the kids and we had a great time, but then again we usually just go for the animals and to catch up with friends and to see their animals. Don't usually care much about the vendors, not the food and definitely not the rides.

Are you missing the free toilet paper?

7:23 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Klages said...

Yep, we went too. Definitely for the animals. I thought the promo spots for the fair this year were good, so advertising probably isn't the issue. Maybe the cool/unpredictable "summer" weather we are having?

8:28 AM  
Blogger MissKris said...

Yup, the demise of fairs is a sad thing. But then, so is the loss of drive-in movie theaters. There's one still out in the Newberg area. Dear Hubby and I passed it around 4 in the afternoon a few Saturdays ago on our way home from Carlton and cars were already lined up!! That says something, don't you think? We used to go to the Grays Harbor County Fair every year when I was a kid and I loved it. But, sad to say, I haven't been to a fair anywhere in over 30 years now. Clark County Fair in Vancouver still seems to do pretty good business but the Multnomah County Fair here in Portland was relegated to Oaks Park a few years ago, if memory serves me right. And what does this say about us that the busiest places are the food booths?! The Bite is happening soon at Waterfront Park and that is always packed out. I dunno, Guy...Oh, and looking at Auntie's comment about toilet paper and James River, where one of my brothers worked for over 30 years...I bought toilet paper yesterday - $6.49 for a pack of 12 double rolls. Argggghhhhhh!

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need an ice rink. Put it out at the fair grounds and it will always be full of people who'd have to go through the fair to get to the ice.

Voila!

9:04 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Traditionally it was all about the harvest. It was a celebration of agriculture and the hard work that had been put in for the year, but it became a part of summer where the activities made a Fair a mixed plate of enjoyment. The animals were the main course, and all the other things that one would see and do at the fair were side dishes and afters. It's all about learning and when you take away a vendor you take away a possible learning experience. Take away the Logging Show and you take away learning. Take away the musical entertainment and you take away some inspiration. It's a Fair, not just an animal show with an auction.

Auntie, I never did take any James River paper products from the Fair, I didn't want to deprive someone who couldn't afford it. Though people wasted a lot of it throwing entire rolls down in the porta-pottys.

Jennifer, Hey folks another local blog I wasn't aware of. Rain and cold aside there was still enough good weather, and the Fair is something I'd hope people would want to attend regardless. There are some people I only see once a year and I look forward to that.

Kris, and James River gave away tons of it at the Fair every year. MAybe as a statement like, "Sorry we made your air stink when the wind blows from the North, so here's some paper for y'all.

Anon, An ice rink? You a Canadian, eh? Though I'd love to see it, it would be a real drain on anyone that tried to keep one going. Historically they haven't been able to keep a roller rink in business around here, and look at the constantly financially strapped Astoria Pool. You'd think that if anything around here that could do well in business it would be a pool since the waters are too cold to swim in most places. There are people here who have never even seen an ice covered lake with kids skating on it. It would be only colder climate transplants that would frequent an ice rink, in my thinking. Most transplants here these days seem to come from the warmer climates of the South.

9:30 AM  
Blogger CB said...

As someone who went every day I would say this fair was better than last year as far as attendance so it will be interesting to see the actual numbers.

There is a fair managers meeting when they get on the vendors circuit and I don't know that we had hired our manager in time for that.

Vendors must be signed on by March, many local do not realize that and ask in June. The new manager appears to be pretty savvy and hopefully the vendors will be coming back. I really don't know how vendors would even know or have interaction with our fair board. Wish there were more of me (or more reporters at all) to put on the story trail and look into this more. This is too important to drop, too many kids need this. Actually, too many adults need this as well.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Uncle Walt said...

Given the emphasis placed on switching the economy away from fishing/logging to tourism ... anything less than an overflowing Fair is a bad sign.

Considering that I didn't see one cruise ship in port during the Fair, I'd say somebody dropped the ball. Big Time.

I mean, all that emphasis on how good the cruise ships are to Astoria's economy ... and they couldn't even get one in port during the Fair? What's up with that?

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes the fair! It was perennial highlight in my golden youth. What this country needs is a good old fashioned depression like we had in 30's. Then folks will relearn all about growing there own, putting things by, making and mending their own clothes. We Americans have been living way up to high on the hog, many have no appreciation for the way most people struggle/endure to live in this world. Our grandparents and their ancestors were familiar with those basic survival skills and the true joy and triumph that accompanies them. Handsaws, sailing ships, buggy whips, the village smithies forge, raising your own cows and chickens, learning to make a good possum stew, ridding hoses and bicycles, letters written with a quill pen and so on. Yes a good old fashioned depression could go a long way towards teaching some of these sniveling crybabies a few clues about the purpose of life AND making the fair more meaningful at eh smae time.. I believe we may get it too.
Now if you want an skating rink; all you got to do is stipulate that the Warrenton LNG site provide a big one with the coldest ice in the world. They'd just have to run that there 163 degrees below zero LNG through a series of pipes on it's way to get heated and gasified.
-The Grumpy Curmudgeon

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Columbiacontrolfreak said...

Well we went to the Columbia County fair, $8 each to get in $2 to park, food was very expensive and hardly any vendor booths. At those prices we won't go again.

We enjoyed ourselves, but not $20+ dollars worth, not counting lunch which was another $20.

Most the people we know didn't go because of the admission price.

We also found out they aren't having an Octoberfest this year which we enjoyed int eh past and were planning on attending.

5:06 PM  
Blogger richpix said...

It would be interesting to find out why people wouldn't go to the fair. Maybe someone should do a survey to eliminate the guesswork. A proper survey, that is, not an online poll which is easily tinkered with.

I know that the only fair I've been familiar with has had similar issues with declining attendance over the years. Mostly it's been due to a change in the population and a move away from local agriculture--most people's concern with agriculture today is in what they buy from the supermarket and stuff in their maw. Most people go to the fair now for the rides and carnival attractions, not to learn anything. They want to be entertained, not educated. That's probably why the entrance fee is $7 and an all-day ride ticket is $15.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about changing the format to make in to some kind of spectacle that people would come for miles around to witness. I know, ya gotta have the kids show their stock and stuff-that's a given, but come on who really wants or needs to be exposed to a ZZ Top tribute band? Not me, pal.
How about taking something from ancient Rome that was a not only a guaranteed way to pack'em in by being one heck of an unforgettable show? Yeah, gladiators. Uh huh..now, before you dismiss this just hear me out.
We could solve our over crowded jail and transition center issuse by having gladiators. Yeah, thats right. Gladiators. A few months before the fair we start rounding up the local homeless riffraff and retards and lock'em down with the hoodlums, crackheads and dangerous anti-socialists amongst us-then when the fair rolls around they get marched into the arena to entertain the crowds? Just let them have at each other--have all the BOCCers, the local Judges and Marquis wearing togas and those leafty wreath deals on their noggins. You know Marquis would love to stand in front a screaming crowd of gore seekers and make dramatic gestures with his thumbs. Maybe big shots like Bergin could take to the arena and dispatch a few bad guys himself(well, bad guys who have been sufficiently disabled as to pose no actual threat to his health(if you get my drift). Maybe trot out some Astoria cops to entertain the throngs with displays of markmanship by dispatching some fair animals that didnt win any ribbons. Heck, the Romans even were able to flood their arenas and stage seabattles. Take all the Portland sportsmen who violate game laws in the county and make them putt around trying to dodge disaster....The Fair has got to go big or else go nowhere.

9:22 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

CB, We'll talk about a certain Board member... But I agree it is something we shouldn't surrender.

Walt, the cruise ship schedule is in place years in advance, but that is a good thought.

Anon, now that's good thinking on the skating rink! Also I've heard that we are in a recession when our neighbor is out of work and a depression when we, ourselves are out of work.

CCF, Parking fees always annoyed me. To drum up business the Oregon State Fair now has free parking.

Rich, I'd bet you wouldn't get much from a survey here. There are so many surveys going on here for different political reasons that people are no longer answering their phones unless they know who is calling in advance.

Nero...I mean Anon So I take you are in favor of the Manix ballot issues ; )

6:50 AM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

We go every year. Went this year, it was pretty empty, even though it was Saturday. Instead of an ice rink, we need a roller rink, no fooling. Even if it was just a temporary one for the fair, that would kick ass. I'd totally be there probably more than one day.

I missed the RV guys.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

Also, there needs to be more competitions other than 4H, which is awesome. We need a spelling bee, for different age groups. How about Clatsop Idol? Battle of the Bands? And publish a schedule of the events, if there are enough people who have kids/friends in stuff, they'll come. How about a 10K or race or something that ends there? Largest whatever (produce, pervs!) contest, pet show, something!

11:44 PM  

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