This article was published on June 22, 2006. It addresses some of the issues raised by Con, Ron and Ken. See the comments from 5 years ago.
Spam Contest Loser said “If half the population of Woodstock goes to the fair just once, this means that 98.5% of the attendees are from somewhere else. Is this good for Woodstock? Remember, the Fair toilets flush in Woodstock.”
“The Town of Woodstock receives nothing for this lost weekend of ‘fun’.”
We are about two months away from the annual Woodstock Fair. I have to say that there is something intangibly nice about having a fair in town. As a kid I would live for the late summer day when my hometown fair would open for a few days. That was a small fair to help fund the local church. Nevertheless, it was a magical event for a kid. When we lived in the South, I would take my kids to the county fair which was about a tenth the size of the Woodstock Fair and we always enjoyed spending a few days there seeing the animals, using the rides, and having meals. These were easily affordable fairs and the emphasis was on community gathering and the farmers’ contributions, but, of course, the kids were dazzled by the carnival atmosphere.
As a family we attended the Woodstock Fair for two years after moving to Woodstock. After those first two years, we had had enough. It was like eating too much of one thing and then getting sick. When this happens, it takes a long time before you recover and want the same thing again. Last year after many years of disinterest, I returned to the Fair with some guests. With some degree of embarrassment I was quickly reminded about what I did not like about the Woodstock Fair - that bad taste came back after perhaps about an hour of strolling around with my friends. It hits you rather quickly because of the densely packed tents and stores crammed with cheap carnie ware and not-so-cheap trinkets. Yes, the animals and their events are fun, but there is little space to stand comfortably and watch the animal contests especially if you are short in stature. The farm animals seem to be viewed by the managers of the Fair as just a side-light of the whole party taking up a very low percentage of the ground space compared to the uncountable vendor booths and food stands, and of course the rides and carnie booths to the east.
The worst part of all of this is the cost. After paying between $15 and $30 just to park the car and enter the fairgrounds as a couple, it is difficult to avoid spending another $20 to $40 on food, drinks and a few trinkets for two in one day. This is probably a gross underestimate of the average spending for most who enter the fairgrounds, especially for the kids who enjoy going on all the rides. For those who return for 3 more days, the total bill is likely to be in the neighborhood of $100 to $200 per individual, or much more.
In 2004, the number of people attending the Fair for all four days was 260,000. If 250,000 attendees averaged $40 in costs per day, then gross revenues for the Fair and all of the vendors including those selling parking outside of the fairgrounds would be about $10,000,000. Of course, I could be off in this estimate, but the order of magnitude is probably correct.
A few days ago a comment was left by ‘Prudent Spender’ (but not one of them, e.g. CPS’ers) who identified an Internet source of the tax returns for all non-profit organizations around the country ( www.Guidestar.org The Woodstock Agricultural Society). I was able to download the 2004 tax return for the Woodstock Agricultural Society (WAS), the non-profit company that sponsors the Woodstock Fair. The total revenues declared for the WAS in 2004 was $1,495,535 and total expenses were $1,261,625 leaving a profit for the year of $233,910. This net income was added to other fund balances and assets of $2,265,292 to give total net assests or fund balances of $2,499,202 at the end of 2004. Of these assets, $1,052,288 represents $142,628 in cash and $909,660 in savings and cash investments. If the estimate of total revenues based upon $40 per visitor is a good estimate, then $8.5 million must have gone to vendors. I could be off - maybe there was only $4 million left in the hands of vendors – or maybe $12 million. Whatever this number might be, it is very large compared to the revenues declared by the WAS.
On this tax return the expenses for many individual line items (mostly Fair expenses) are neatly itemized. But these expenses pale next to the realization that the WAS earns several hundred thousand dollars each year, floats over a million dollars in cash assets each year, and the vendors (mostly for-profit vendors) walk away with between $4 and $12 million each year.
The Town of Woodstock receives nothing for this lost weekend of ‘fun’. My cats dodge the constant stream of cars in front of our property, I pick up the trash deposited on our front lawn, and the roads and infrastructure of the Town are held hostage so that a handful of people can cash in.
You would think that at least the WAS would give Woodstock citizens a break in the admission fee, or better yet show some philanthropy toward the Town.
No smileys here.