The statement by Jeff Hallmark, chairman of the Blount County-Oneonta Agribusiness Center Board, could not be any clearer.
“We’ve seen a significant drop both in attendance and in money raised,” said Hallmark. “If we don’t make some changes now, there won’t be a fair to worry about in a few years.”
This year’s fair, held Sept. 15-19, showed a total of $56,238 in gate receipts. That sounds pretty good but not when compared to 2014 ($60,831) and 2015 ($74,027).
A closer study of the fair’s yearly totals reveals an alarming loss of attendance over the last three years.
In 2014, the fair saw a total paid attendance of 10,882 over the five days (Sept. 30 – Oct. 4). In 2015, paid attendance was 13,084 (Sept. 15-19). This year, that number was down to 9316.
“We need to look at what we’re doing and make changes now,” said Hallmark.
“That means looking at everything, from the contract we have with Kissel Entertainment (the rides, games and concessions vendor) to the admission charges.”
Hallmark said there are a couple of issues with the contract that the board has with Kissel and they are working on those now.
“I’m not saying we’re making a change or anything of that nature but we are in discussion on a variety of things in relation to our contract (with Kissel),” he said.
This year’s drop in attendance, and subsequent gate receipts, is especially concerning because the weather was considered perfect for an outdoor event.
Hallmark hopes to have recommendations for any changes to present to the board in the near future.