10/24/05 — Rain hurt profit, but official happy with '05 Wayne fair

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Rain hurt profit, but official happy with '05 Wayne fair

By Turner Walston
Published in News on October 24, 2005 2:01 PM

Rain put a damper on the profitability of the Wayne Regional Fair this year, cutting into attendance during the fair's final days.

But fair officials said they were not discouraged by the wet weather and reduced gate receipts and expect the fair to continue to be one of North Carolina's best.

Attendance was down about 35 percent overall this year, said Fair Director Milton Ingram.

About 90,000 people attended the 10-day annual event.

But rain on Thursday, Oct. 6, caused the cancellation of the following day's activities, including popular ones such as the Ugly Truck Contest and Demolition Derby. On Saturday, Oct. 8, the fair's final day, gates opened five hours behind schedule because of wet weather, further cutting into expected profits.

Despite the rain, Ingram said he was happy with this year's turnout.

"We had a good fair," Ingram said. "I thought we really had some quality exhibits. Everybody was very complimentary."

Ingram said the rain hurt because it hit on days that normally would draw big crowds.

"Before the rain started, we had just about reached the point where we could start creating a surplus of funds," he said.

Ingram said the overall cost for putting on this year's fair will be about $350,000, after all bills are paid.

"It takes a while to get all the computations made," he said.

Ingram said he will possibly make some changes to try to save money in 2006.

"I'm already looking at some ways to cut costs next year," Ingram said. "We may have to reduce help and labor. This will be a very lean year for us."

Scheduling changes could be in the works for next year's fair, as Ingram would like to see higher attendance on days that are typically slower. One change might include moving the first Demolition Derby to Sunday afternoon, "In order to try to balance the attendance. That's the main thing," said Ingram.

The amount of money leftover after paying bills may not permit a lot of improvements for next year's fair, Ingram said.

"Most of our improvements are visible, but there are a lot of things that the public cannot see," he said.

Recent enhancements have included additional lighting on the grounds, handwashing stations adjacent to livestock barns and concrete barriers in the grandstand area.

Ingram said that in his 21 years of working at the fair, that he has seen about $2 million invested in the facilities at the fairgrounds.

"We're still paying on loans on all these improvements," Ingram said.

Although the fair was originally conceived as a fundraiser for the Wayne County Livestock Develop-ment Association, Ingram said it has become the organization's primary activity.

"We will never have a large bank account. Basically everything we get out of the fair goes right back into it," he said.