Moss said fair officials felt like there were enough events planned for later in the evenings so the heat would not be as much of a factor then. Also, the fair has a number of exhibits that are housed indoors in venues such as the Veterans Building, the Bernard School Exhibits Building and the Arnett Education Building which are air-conditioned. Fiddler’s Grove, which features many buildings from Wilson County’s past, has many large shade trees that provide a break from the sun.
The covered arena often has a breeze that blows through it fairly consistently, Moss said, and the large tents which housed various vendors and exhibitors had fans to help lessen the impact of the heat.
“The first Saturday is traditionally the largest,” he said, noting that this year, however, the first Saturday is where “we scored our biggest loss.” The first Saturday of the fair this year drew 43,771, due mainly to the heat. That was a decrease of 62,008 from last year’s number of 105,779. No other night of the fair sustained that much of a drop in attendance.
As if the heat was not enough to contend with, Mother Nature rained on the party this year, too, causing officials for the first time ever to close it down on Wednesday night. “We don’t have any control over the rain,” Moss said.
“Closing the fair on Wednesday, it was a tough decision we’d never made before. It wasn’t worth taking a risk” of someone getting injured by, say, slipping on a wet surface.
There were two pageants for young men and one for young ladies that were to be held Wednesday night, and they were rescheduled. However, a four-wheeler competition could not be rescheduled.
Moss said officials began thinking “if we can keep up with the heat – 2007 we had tremendous heat – if we can get back (to that) – we did that, plus.”
Season ticket sales were strong this year, and Moss noted that almost every newscast on Nashville TV stations had something to say about the fair here. “You can’t beat that.”
He added that the adoption this year by many community members of the slogan promoting Wilson County as “The Place to Be” which was also the theme of the fair, also benefited the annual event.
Of course, with the double whammy of the heat and then the rain, Moss said “our revenues are down.” But the fair maintains a savings account from which it will draw for next year’s event. The account was established to deal with issues like lower attendance and such.
Gate admission is the main source of revenue for the fair, but it also receives funds from carnival rides, sponsorships and vendors who rent space. “When attendance drops, the carnival drops,” he said.
Moss also discussed attendance figures kept for each night of the fair which are totaled at the end of its normal nine-day run.
The figures, he said, are composed of calculated attendance and paid attendance. Officials take a percentage of season ticket sales and include that into each night’s figures because they know that not everyone who buys one will attend each night. They also know how many vendors there are on-site and how many carnival workers are there as well.
In addition, children under the age of 5 get in free. Officials use a formula that includes the number of adults sold and a percentage of the population of children under 5. And then they account, also, for the volunteers who are on the fairgrounds each night, something like 600 to 700 total.
“Paid attendance is a smaller percentage of that” figure each night and each year, he said, adding “The only true way to know is to use turnstiles” and with six entry gates and two service entrances off Peyton Road for emergency and carnival workers it would be a large undertaking to obtain an exact number.
Moss said ultimately the fair may benefit from the interruptions this year. “It might be good for our organization, with these bumps in the road, to take a look at what we’re doing and look at new ways to do it. It’ll be good for us in the long run. I didn’t feel that way when it was raining, but I do (now). We’re pleased.
As always, Moss praised the efforts of the volunteers, the City of Lebanon and county agencies who work together each year to make the fair happen and to keep the traffic moving. He also thanked those who attended, noting everyone who plays some part in the event helps make it the largest county fair in the state.
Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.