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Proposed cuts in state spending may hurt county Fair, director says

Proposed cuts in state spending could hurt county fairs across the state, including San Juan County
Proposed cuts in state spending could hurt county fairs across the state, including San Juan County's.
— image credit: File photo

Washington state's budget deficit and the cuts proposed by Gov. Gregoire may have a severe impact on the San Juan County Fair, according to Fair and Events Manager Rev Shannon.

Shannon said In a press release circulated late last week that one of the budget reductions proposed by the governor would gut the fund that supports agricultural fairs across the state.

The county Fair, he notes, has received approximately $38,000 a year from the State Fair Fund in the past few years.

These funds are used to pay premium awards, provide ribbons and trophies and support exhibitor programs.

If the governor’s proposed cuts pass the Legislature, that amount could be cut in half or eliminated completely. Without state support, the fair may lose some programs and may not be able to pay premiums or provide ribbons and awards to exhibitors, Shannon said.

“The state fair fund currently has a balance of $2 million that is scheduled to be paid to fairs in the spring,” he said. “Gregoire’s supplemental budget takes away $1.2 million of that. In the governor’s 2011-2013 budget, the fair fund is reduced from $2 million per year to $500,000 per year. Gregoire has indicated that these funds should support youth and community fairs and not county fairs.”

An additional $200,000 in special grant funds used in the past for the health and for safety upgrades for fairs statewide has also been eliminated.

“The fair and fairgrounds is an economic engine within the island community,” Shannon said. “State and other grant funds go directly into the community through premium awards to exhibitors, contracts with service groups, temporary employment, contract labor, business services and supply purchases."

Shannon said community organizations and businesses use the annual Fair for promotion of their products and services, and as a fundraising opportunity. Events at the fairgrounds are also significant revenue generators for the community, he adds.

“Letting our representatives know that the San Juan County Fair is an important part of life in our community is essential to re-instating the funding,” he said.

In support of continued support of fairs, Shannon cites the Washington State Fair Economic Impact Report, which notes these statistics:

• In 2005, 7.8 million people attended events held at fairgrounds throughout Washington State, more than the state population of 6.3 million people (Washington State Office of Financial Management, 2006). By comparison, 4.6 million people visited Seattle Center and approximately 1.2 million attended events at Key Arena in 2005 (Beyers, 2006).

• Gross economic impacts from Washington State fairs and other fairground activities were between $350 million and $385 million in 2005.

• Fairs and fairground activities supported between an estimated 5,630 to 5,807 temporary jobs in 2005 with numerous more volunteer opportunities.

• Estimated labor income for all jobs related to the fairs is between $48 million and $51 million in 2005.

• Estimated tax revenues generated by fair and non-fair gross economic activity range between $22.7 million and $25.0 million in 2005.

• Fairs and other fairground activities played a vital role in fundraising for many non-profit groups throughout the state.

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