Time to Speak Up

Written by Dennis Sun

For the last couple of weeks, there have been listening sessions held around the state, hosted by the Wyoming State Fair, as to what people want to see at future state fairs.

The Wyoming State Fair has been in the bullseye ever since the State Legislature cut about a third of its appropriation from every biennium. With school funding on the line across the state, our legislators have had some really tough decisions to make the last couple of years. I’ve even heard some legislators involved in agriculture say, “If it involves dollars for education or Wyoming State Fair, I have to go with education.”

To help solve the short funding in education, the legislators don’t have a lot of choices. They can cut more in state government, utilize dollars from one of the rainy-day accounts, cut more funding from state education or all of the above.

Here is where the Wyoming State Fair is in trouble – not many state legislators are aware of what State Fair is all about, and outside of Douglas, the general public doesn’t know much about state fair if they are not involved in 4-H or FFA.

The Wyoming State Fair does have some challenges. as a result of its timing. State Fair has always been held in August, and attendees have always seemed to make it work. It is expensive for parents to take their kids and animals to State Fair, but youth are always there.

At the same time, due to a number of reasons, vendor numbers are dropping as State Fair prices rise. The state legislators asked that vendor, gate receipts and ticket sales increase and also that prices for using state fair facilities during the year were raised. Does this make money or lose money for State Fair in the long run?

Other challenges out of State Fair's control are the low population base in the town of Douglas and surrounding area and the slow-down in energy prices. These factors hurt when we look at getting people through the gates and in increasing sponsorships – two vital components for success.

But if we want a State Fair – and we do, we can make it happen, even though it may not look as past ones have. The number of days will be shorter, and this may not be all bad. For open show classes of livestock, outside livestock and breed organizations may have to participate in sponsorship and planning. Prices for vendors and other participants will have to stay low to compensate for the lower number of gate receipts. Maybe State Fair will have to run some buses from Gillette or Casper.

The State Fair staff will have to include marketing personnel to attract use during the off-season and may have to have lower costs than facilities in Casper or Gillette to attract those events to their venue. A number of changes in state regulations may have to take place for State Fair to be more efficient, too.

But first, we need to tell our legislators we want a viable State Fair for our youth and to showcase agriculture. That is our job. Talk to your legislators. Show up at the hearing on Oct. 18 in the McKibben Cafeteria on the State Fairgrounds. Do your part. We owe it to the youth of Wyoming who are or will be a part of the Wyoming State Fair.