10/09/05 — Rains takes toll on fair profit

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Rains takes toll on fair profit

By Turner Walston
Published in News on October 9, 2005 2:05 AM

Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair officials hoped to break even after a wet closing weekend cut into attendance and profits. Rains from Tropical Storm Tammy kept the fair closed on Friday and delayed opening on Saturday, the fair's final day.

Fair director Milton Ingram waited until 2:30 p.m. to make a decision to open the fair at 4 o'clock Saturday afternoon, as rains soaked the midway Saturday morning. The fair was scheduled to open Saturday at 11 a.m.

The demolition derby and ugly truck contest, events scheduled for the fair's grandstand, were canceled due to the poor conditions.

Rainy days Thursday, Friday and Saturday seriously hurt attendance, Ingram said.

"It looks like we're going to have about 65 percent of what we normally do," he said. "That means we maybe break even and have a very tight year ahead."

He said paid admission was 7,400 for the second Friday of the fair in 2004, while it was about 14,000 on the second Saturday.

"We're over 20,000 people short of what we were last year," he said.

"With a 10-day fair, Friday and Saturday was probably the profit we would have had," Ingram said.

Ingram said this year he hoped the fair would be able to break even. "We're trying to get just enough to pay for our labor expenses for the day," he said.

Ingram compared the situation to 1999, when Hurricane Floyd caused closings and affected revenue.

"It takes you several years to get back ahead and get some revenue in the bank."

A smaller profit meant fair officials would not be able to make many improvements for next year, Ingram said.

Rain cancellations and delays were costing vendors as well, including stands operated by local fire departments and churches.

"We've had two slow days, but we'll get by," said Terry Aycock of the Nahunta Fire Department.

"It hurt the fire department a little bit, but not bad. We don't rely on this," Aycock said of the rains.

"There's always that chance that you're going to have bad weather," Aycock said.

At the Emmaus Baptist Church grill, J.R. Kohnen offered some perspective.

"We're trying to raise money for the church. The good Lord's got control of the weather, so we're just going with what he sends us," Kohnen said.

Kohnen said money from the grill's sales go toward local missions. "It definitely hurt us that we lost a day and a half, but we had a good week going," Kohnen said. "I'm sure it probably hurt everybody."

Dale Gainey of the Mar-Mac Fire Department said he would have a food surplus due to the weather.

"I've got about 180 pounds of hamburger that I need to sell," he said.

Gainey said the Fire Department would have very little profit from this year's fair.

"Basically the last three days is your profit," Gainey said. He estimated that the grill would have done about $3,000 in sales on Saturday and $1,500 on Friday if the weather had cooperated.

One concessionaire, an ice cream truck operated by Charles B. Aycock High School Band Boosters, closed up shop before the fair re-opened Saturday.

"They're not going to open up again, and if they do, it's not going to be the crowd we hoped for," said Denise Davis.

Mrs. Davis said sales of ice cream had been brisk during the dryer days at the fair. "We've been doing fantastic," she said. "Our best day was last Saturday. The rain cost us this year."

Still, members of the booster club said that sales on the dry days equaled amounts from the entire fair in 2004.

In a bit of good news, Ingram said drivers who did not get to participate in the demolition derby scheduled for Saturday were invited to participate in the North Carolina State Fair's derby.

"If people want to root their favorite driver on, he'll be at the State Fair," Ingram said.