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'We've pretty much lost everything'

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | December 18, 2020 1:06 AM

The North Idaho State Fair reported a 66% drop in profits from 2019.

Alexcia Jordan, fair manager, presented Kootenai County commissioners with the state of the fairgrounds heading into 2021.

She said losses, including a 25% decrease in event revenue, have hurt the fairgrounds. They cut expenses by 58%, Jordan said, which helped balance the books.

"Right now, we've pretty much lost everything," Jordan said. "We've been ultra-conservative, lost staff, and now there are very few of us doing a whole bunch of work so we can rebound in 2021."

For about four years, the fair board has allocated some of their income into a capital reserve account. Taking a dollar from every admission, Jordan said the savings were intended to finance facility growth and plans for new community buildings on the fairground campus. Unfortunately, the board has had to borrow from those savings to pay bills and employees.

"Currently, our net income is negative $45,000," she said. "We're going to be OK moving forward, but this is the state where we're at."

The board is hopeful an expanded 10-day fair and community sponsors will help it bounce back next August.

This week the board launched a "golden holiday ticket" deal that includes a 10-day admission pass, unlimited rides, a 32-ounce drink cup, and $2 refills. The $185 ticket is available through Dec. 31 and is the deepest discount of the season, with a $450 value.

There will also be a $50, 10-day admission pass for sale starting Jan. 1. Though it costs roughly $100,000 per additional day the fair is operational, Jordan said they could make it work.

The expansion has been in the works for years, board member Linda Rider said, partially to add more attractions, but also to spread out the over-packed patrons.

"We've found through the years that our fairgrounds are getting more and more crowded, so you get to the point where people don't want to come," Rider said. "That was part of our thinking, was that if you can spread it out, then everybody's a happier camper because they have more days to come."

Jordan said arena shows are lined up for the summer event, including concerts, double the demolition derby plus monster trucks, and more agricultural expos.

"We just really feel that the fair industry as a whole and events are going to be a key to getting the world up and moving again," she said. "So we hope that we can be a big part of that."

Jordan and the fair board asked commissioners to consider aiding the division with funding from a potential CARES Act extension — which hasn't been confirmed — and the $50,000 signing piece the county received from Kootenai County Fire and Rescue's Fairground lease agreement.

"We've been very excited about this, and we've been anticipating them joining our facilities," Jordan said. "We are hoping for some support through that funding. Again, it's a year we could use the money. That signing piece is about what we've lost already this year."

photo

BILL BULEY/Press

Alexcia Jordan, North Idaho State Fair general manager, works in her office Thursday.