County releases fair attendance, revenue numbers

Cascade County released numbers today for the 2019 Montana State Fair.

According to a release from Montana Expo Park, this year’s fair generated $1.67 million in revenue, up by $19,606 over last year.

There were 76,077 paid guests, according to the county, compared to 74,580 in 2018 with a total revenue of $388,500.

Fair admission revenue was down by $4,470 from last year, which Montana Expo Park said was attributable to the discounted tickets offered through Central Montana Radio Network’s sponsorship.

The most visited day was July 27 with 12,809 fairgoers, according to the county release.

Several people told The Electric that free tickets were given out for fair admission and Susan Shannon, Montana Expo Park director, said there were social media contests that included giveaways for gate admission, rodeo tickets, carnival wristbands, food coupons, commercial vendor gift certificates and night show tickets.

The night shows and Saturday matinee generated $479,223, according to the release.

In June, the Cascade County Commission approved a $481,000 contract to the Romeo Entertainment Group to secure the night show acts.

In July, the commissioners approved contracts for the wandering acts and those on the 3Rivers Stage. Those three contracts totaled $25,800, plus lodging costs.

We’re working on getting numbers related to fair expenses to put revenues in context.

The Electric asked about attendance for the night shows and the county provided additional numbers.

Shannon said the goal is to provide a variety of entertainment and they don’t expect all of the shows to draw the same numbers.

Shannon said each show is budgeted differently and provided the numbers they budgeted for as well as actual attendance:

Collective Soul.  Budget: 2,638 // Attendance: 2,748

The Four Tops. Budget: 1,746 // Attendance: 1,062

Tracy Byrd. Budget: 1,425 // Attendance: 1,331

Hairball. Budget: 1,147 // Attendance: 1.033

Trace Adkins. Budget: 2,338 // Attendance: 3,086

Larry the Cable Guy. Budget: 2,680 // Attendance: 2,250

Darci Lynne. Budget: 2,000 // Attendance:  3,347

Food concessionaires grossed $725,788, down 1.09 percent from last year’s fair, according to the release. The busiest day for food vendors was the first Saturday when they grossed $116,033, according to the county.

Several people asked The Electric about the percentage food vendors had to provide to the county during the fair. Shannon told The Electric that the percentage has been 21 percent since the 2013 fair.

Others told us that food vendors had been prohibited from offering free or discounted meals to employees during the fair. We asked and Shannon said, “Montana State Fair does not regulate what individual food vendors give to their own employees working in their food booth.”

The Mighty Thomas Carnival was part of the Montana State Fair for the 26th year and grossed $645,468, up $3,302 from 2018, according to the county.

The four-night Big Sky Pro Rodeo had a total of 6,673 attendees, up from 6,504 in 2018, according to the county. The total payoff for this year’s rodeo was $12,968.

The Rodeo Committee provided 500 rodeo tickets and food coupons for military personnel and their families to enjoy Patriot Night during the rodeo.

In late July, the county commissioners approved an agreement with Sankey Pro Rodeo for the event. For the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the cost to the county is $65,375 annually and for the 2021-2023 seasons, the costs will be $66,300.

The competitive exhibits ranged from quilting demonstrations to goat milking and more with 5,223 exhibits by 700 exhibitors and $40,714 in premium monies went to winners. The Junior Livestock Sale grossed $31,860, according to the county release.

Item 2019 2018 2017 2016 Variance  % +/-
Total Fair Revenue $1,670,049 $1,650,443 $1,758,463 $1,551,364 $19,606 +1.18%
Fair Gate Admission ($) $388,500 $392,970 $393,741 $361,561 $(4,470) -1.13%
Fair Gate Attendance (#) 76,077 74,580 71,388 65,906 1,497 +2.00%
Food Concessionaires – Gross Sales $725,788 $733,819 $721,119 $665,771 $(8,031) -1.09%
The Mighty Thomas Carnival – Gross Sales $645,468 $642,166 $622,879 $612,187 $3,302 +0.51%