Wyo State Fair State Fair to see changes in 2018
For at least the last five years, the Wyoming State Fair has been a topic of conversation for the state, and after the 2018 session of the Wyoming Legislature, more beneficial actions have been taken.
“We’ve seen some major progress surrounding Wyoming State Fair in the past year,” said Doug Miyamoto, Wyoming Department of Agriculture director. “Most importantly is we will have a state fair in 2018.”
The trend and budget for Wyoming State Fair over the last 10 years has shown a decrease in the available reserve funding, which has created an impetus to look at how much it costs to put on a state fair and where the funding goes.
“It’s a fairly expensive endeavor, and we wanted to prioritize youth exhibits and competitions,” said Miyamoto. “Concerts, demolition derbies and more are nice, but that isn’t our priority with the state fair.”
“We have analyzed what it takes to do a youth-oriented fair and make that time more productive,” he added, noting that Wyoming State Fair will continue to move in that direction. “All in all, we’re feeling better about the direction of Wyoming State Fair.”
For many years, Miyamoto said the Wyoming Department of Agriculture has hosted state fair, but he noted, “It’s been a real challenge to get input from people we needed to set a solid direction and understand what citizens expect and want.”
“When we couple that with a changing appetite of what a fair should offer, planning a state fair is hard,” he continued.
Further, Miyamoto indicated legislative interest in making the fair a self-sufficient entity that was less reliant on general fund appropriations for its annual event.
“If the state of Wyoming can afford to put money towards basketball and football, they should be able to at least afford to support the last remaining vocational education opportunity that exists to a large degree,” Miyamoto commented, “but we’ve been challenged to make the event more self-sufficient than in the past.”
With funding shortages in mind, Miyamoto noted the first major change for fair involves condensing the fair from 10 days to four.
“Condensing the fair was a pretty salacious idea in the beginning,” he said. “We will change from an event that runs from Saturday to Saturday to one that runs from Wednesday to Saturday.”
The change was made with several cost-saving ideas in mind, but it also achieves the goal of providing more activity on the fairgrounds.
“When we had a Saturday to Saturday fair, anyone from out of state or who didn’t know much about the fair who stopped in on opening weekend, for example, was underwhelmed,” Miyamoto explained. “During opening weekend in the past, the carnival wasn’t set up, vendors weren’t up and running and there wasn’t as much going on at the grounds. That was unacceptable to us.”
Condensing the event schedule also allows the state to reduce temporary service contracts – including ticket takers, custodial services, campground attendants and others, which also saves money.
“We believe that if we increase activity and condense the fair schedule, it will be a better event,” he said. “4-H and FFA families have also told us they don’t want to be in Douglas for 10 days in the heat of the summer when school sports and other things are coming up.”
Miyamoto said, “All of these factors are behind the decision to condense the fair schedule. All of the shows that have been offered will still go on, which took some schedule tweaking, but not as much as one might think.”
In addition to fair changes, Rep. Bill Henderson of Cheyenne also introduced a bill during the 2018 legislative session to start an endowment for the Wyoming State Fair.
“The concept of an endowment is simple and has been around for a long time,” Henderson said. “This endowment provides a tremendous opportunity for the Wyoming State Fair.”
The bill provides for matching funds up to $100,000 as seed money. The endowment is permanent and quite simple, Henderson noted, adding that 25 percent of the earnings from the endowment will go directly toward operation of the fair, and the remaining funds to be returned to the endowment.
The matching funds for the endowment must be collected by June 30, 2020, but Henderson said, “The sooner we get this going and the sooner we raise the money, the sooner we have to continue to build the state fair.”
Further, he said, future funding requests from the legislature may be possible sooner if matching funds are raised.
“People can donate to the endowment by mailing funds to Wyoming State Fair Endowment, PO Box 10, Douglas, WY 82633 or by visiting wystatefair.com and using the online donation form,” Henderson added.
“The fair is an ideal place to showcase what’s going on in Wyoming agriculture,” he said. “This endowment is a great opportunity to support the Wyoming State Fair.”
Overall, Miyamoto sees activities in the last year related to state fair as being necessary to ensure the future of the Wyoming State Fair.
“This fall, we will also have a 13-member board with policy authority over the state fairgrounds with the singular goal of making Wyoming State Fair more self-sufficient,” he said, noting that the board will include representatives from agriculture, tourism, Office of State Parks and more, ensuring vast revenue generating expertise.
“We think activity levels in the days leading up to fair will be about the same as they have been in the past, but we’ll officially kick off on Wednesday,” Miyamoto commented. “I want to thank everyone for sticking with us and remaining patient as we evaluate state fair. I think the action we have taken will be beneficial in the long run.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.