In the past few years, complaints have surrounded the Jackson County Fair. That said, the complaints have come from two different groups: fair goers and vendors. Fair Goers, mostly parents, have been concerned the admission has been so high that they have little money left to show their children a good time. Vendors have been concerned that the gate attendance has been low and they have little opportunity to make back what they must pay to get their products or services in front of the public.
Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but let’s takes a closer look. Gate prices have gone up to $11 and when you pay for a family to park, get into the gate, take the kids on a ride, get some food and attend one of the concerts, you don’t have much left from the weekly paycheck. A person can easily see why vendors would be upset; there is little left to buy one of their goods or services. Folks have complained enough and the fair board has now heard the complaints.
In meeting March 21, the Board acted to reduce the gate admission from $11 to $10 effective with the fair in July. They further approved a reduction in the pre-paid rate from $10 to 9 if purchased in advance of the fair. While not a great amount, it represents as much as 18 percent reduction for an adult gate fare.
There is more in the works from the Fair Board, but they are still in the planning stages of those changes. One thing Manager Dave Koellermeier has stressed is that there will be many “free” events and attractions. That should make the experience for a family much more pleasant.
Two things were most noticeable at the March 21 meeting of the Board. One is that there now seems to be a much greater spirit of cooperation amongst Board members and a clear indication that the Board is listening to the public. While no one believes that the fair can be conducted with no money, the public objects going home flat broke while the kids were just warming up to the events.
Another major change expected during the fair is that each of the days will have a specific “theme.” Tuesday is tentatively “family & kids day” and Wednesday will be “senior day” where senior citizens will have their gate fare be slashed in half. “Patriots and veterans” will have a half-price day on Thursday and Friday is the biggie for those of us who never got a chance to get on a bull. Pro riders will give live demonstrations of how they get their brains beat out. Saturday is tentatively a Demolition Derby, perhaps in the evening or afternoon. Keep in mind that these proposed changes are tentative.
The Jackson County Fair is the big event of the year in the entire county. It is a family event that everyone can enjoy. When families have to leave early because they have run out of funds, or leave feeling like the cartoon character with pockets turned inside out, it is infinitely less enjoyable. We are still in the depths of a recession, despite what government officials tell us of recovery. Many of the jobs that have come back pay less than a living wage and managing on that reduced budget curtails much of the fun we used to enjoy.
Offering free events and attractions is one way of helping folks who are hurting. Reducing the gate cost is another, and should pay dividends for the county in the long run. The heartening thing is that the Board seems to be moving as one, pulling together as a team.