LOVINGTON — The 85th Annual Lea County Fair and PRCA Rodeo’s Sale of Champions last month brought in the highest revenue since 2003, said Fairground General Manager Jim Kemp.
Kemp reported results of the nine-day event at Thursday’s Lea County Commission meeting. The fair and rodeo culminated with the Sale of Champions on Aug. 7.
On sale day, bidders spent a total of $573,500 on 121 animals sold by Lea County’s 4-H and FFA youth. Then, by the night before the commission meeting, more than $100,000 had been committed as add-ons to a total of $682,633, Kemp said.
“As far as I can tell, since 2003, this actually will be the highest sale,” Kemp said, noting he had researched the historical data. “As of last night, we’ve collected $300,000 of the sale and we have collected $70,000 of the add-ons.”
Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Long beamed, “Wonderful. That’s just awesome.”
“And that speaks volumes for Lea County,” Kemp agreed.
With the fair and rodeo cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only the junior livestock show took place, bringing in a total of $578,250 with $467,750 bid on sale day. The total increase from 2020 to 2021 calculated to 18 percent.
For comparison, the 2019 sale amount was $515,350 with an add-on amount of $87,939, totaling $603,289, before the pandemic.
Meanwhile, with other data in hand, Kemp acknowledged the fair and rodeo still felt the effects of the pandemic in many ways.
Gate receipts at $292,000 were only 3 percent below the $300,000 budget but 10 percent below the 2019 receipts of $325,000.
“Attendance reflects that with, this year, 62,000. In 2019, it was 67,000,” Kemp said, noting the 7 percent drop. “I was pleased with that. I thought we may have a bigger decrease with people maybe not having the money to come to the fair.”
Carnival enjoyment jumped with a 37 percent increase in revenue, from $177,000 in 2019 to $242,000 this year.
“One of the things we really lagged on this year was sponsorship money,” Kemp told the commissioners. “Going into it, I suspected we would see some revenue decline simply because of businesses that were closed. Employees were laid off. It’s hard to recruit that. We were down 32 percent from what I had budgeted.”
Although the 2019 fair and rodeo brought in $345,000 in sponsorships, Kemp had only budgeted $300,000 for this year, but received only $205,000, which was a drop of 41 percent from 2019.
Vendor rentals also dropped, but not as much as the fairgrounds manager had anticipated.
“We had a lot of vendors in 2020 that went out of business,” Kemp said. “Actually, 8 percent down. I was pleased with that. I thought we would be a little more down with vendors.”
The two major expenditures for putting on what has been termed the county’s biggest event are the rodeo itself and the concert entertainment, Kemp said, placing the fair and rodeo’s total expenses at a little more than $1.3 million, 16 percent below the budgeted almost $1.6 million.
Total cost of the concerts came to $667,825, including $359,750 for artists’ fees, $157,000 for sound production, $45,000 for the booking agent and $44,450 for lodging.
“A lot of people think the entertainment (expenses) only consists of what we pay artists,” Kemp said. “This is why I look at the total picture.”
The fairground manager put rodeo production in the same category, at a total of $442,200, but noting a long list of expenses including $148,000 for the stock contractor, $154,509 for PRCA/WPRA payouts, $44,000 for rodeo insurance and $23,573 for lodging.
“There are a lot of things that go into those two right there and it’s not hard to see that those two items are a large chunk of our expenses for our fair and rodeo,” Kemp concluded.
Comparing the total revenue of $863,000 to the total expenses of $1,324,200 and estimate county staff labor of $165,000, Kemp said the net cost of the fair and rodeo was $626,200, just under 10 percent more than the 2019 net cost of $571,584.