Fair, rodeo event draws 20,000 more attendees
Sale of Champions up 30 percent Net cost to county down 13 percent
CURTIS C. WYNNE NEWS-SUN
LOVINGTON — Lea County’s biggest event of the year continues to grow as its net cost to the taxpayers drops, according to data presented to the county commission Thursday.
Fairgrounds Manager Jim Kemp recapped expenses and revenue data from the 83rd Annual Lea County Fair and Rodeo in August, compared to the 2017 event as well as the 2018 budget.
Kemp pointed out an important part of the available data to be reported was the results of the Sale of Champions, during which FFA and 4-H kids sell their champion livestock in an auction on the last day of the fair.
The Sale of Champions jumped almost 30 percent from a total of $420,100 in 2017 to $545,335 in 2018 with totals including add-ons.
Kemp said only $65,000 in livestock sales and $5,000 in add-ons had not yet been received by Oct. 15, but buyers have been given 90 days from the sale date with 60-day notices to be sent out soon.
Expenditures for the 2018 fair totaled $1.38 million, compared to $1.57 million in 2017, a 12 percent drop. Revenue climbed from $723,931 in 2017 to $834,159 in 2018, a 15 percent increase. The resulting net cost of the fair dropped from $849,001 to $549,957, or a 35 percent reduction.
Meanwhile, Kemp said gate attendance increased by more than 20,000, from 39,089 last year to 59,115 this year while gate ticket sales increased from $245,446 to $268,783. Sponsorships also increased from $138,000 to $167,000, a 21 percent bump.
Since gate sales and carnival revenue actually fell short of the budgeted $280,000 and $177,000, respectively, Kemp said, “I’ll attribute that to the two nights of rain we had. … We had two nights of terrible weather.” On two occasions in early August, heavy storms closed the fair and rodeo early.
Commissioner Dean Jackson said, “I’m pretty impressed, even with the two rain out nights. It’s going up. What would it have been with them?”
Kemp responded, “We could have been close to $900,000 with those two nights.”
The fairgrounds manager listed four specific categories of expenses as entertainment, rodeo production, advertising and temporary labor.
“It’s no secret that our entertainment and our rodeo production make up the bulk of our budget,” Kemp said.
He itemized entertainment expenses this year at $618,028 actual, $615,500 budgeted and $583,000 in 2017.
Artists fees accounted for $410,000 with the rest of the entertainment expenses listed as $95,000 for sound production, $41,000 for a booking agent and $37,000 for motel costs.
Kemp noted the motel costs rise when large artist groups are contracted to spend two nights in the area.
Rodeo production costs dropped slightly from $502,000 in 2017 to $478,285, which was just under the budgeted amount of $496,800.
The county spent $111,750 on advertising this year, compared to $92,080 in 2017 and a budgeted amount for 2018 of $172,900. Kemp pointed out the new use of television advertising in the Lubbock area. In discussion with commissioners, he acknowledged there is no real way to determine who came to the fair and rodeo as a result of a specific advertisement.
Temporary labor, including security and general staff, cost $133,184, just under the $139,405 budgeted and some 24 percent more than the 2017 cost of $107,406.
The bottom line, Kemp said was a decrease of the net revenue to total expenses by 13.3 percent from 2017, which also decreased by 9.8 percent from the previous year.
“So, we’re going in the right direction. Obviously, my goal is for those (expenses and revenue) to meet at some point,” he said. “That is my goal and the fair board’s goal. You understand why we do the fair and rodeo. It is a quality of life issue.”
Fair and Rodeo Board Chairman Larry Wheeler said, “In my opinion, the fair and rodeo was a huge success.”
He proceeded with a short list of specific issues on which the fair board will be working this year, including first Saturday activities, providing pictures to buyers, handicap parking and an insufficient restroom situation.
Commissioner Jackson asked both Kemp and Wheeler what part of the event they thought brought in the most gate revenue.
Kemp picked the rodeo, while Wheeler responded with the entertainment. They both agreed the entire experience of the fair and rodeo attracts attendees.