Georgia National Fair turning greener, getting leaner

mlee@macon.comJanuary 30, 2013 

ATLANTA -- The annual Georgia National Fair in Perry is set to put agriculture at the very center of its festivities, a move its boss said will make it more popular.

“The state fairs that are successful across the country are the ones that show agriculture prominently,” said Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter Executive Director Randy Moore. “People want to grow their own vegetable garden, that type of thing.”

Those backyard farmers will find inspiration at this October’s fair in the newly named Georgia Grown Building, which will showcase the state’s agribusinesses and farm products.

That “Georgia Grown” slogan indicates how the fair is shifting focus. It used to be under the umbrella of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Now it’s partnered with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, which launched the massive “Georgia Grown” branding campaign in 2011.

“We were one of the few (state fairs) not aligned with the Department of Agriculture,” Moore said.

Moore was in Atlanta on Wednesday to present to the economic development subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, the Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority’s state budget request. Moore’s request is for the remaining few months of this fiscal year as well as the fiscal year beginning in July.

His whole program is about 87 percent self-sufficient and growing, on a state allocation that may be a little less than $1 million next year. That percentage is better than expected, he said.

“The founding fathers of this (agricultural exposition authority),” Moore said, “never had any idea that this would be as successful as it is. They never envisioned it getting to 90 percent self-supporting.”

Technically, the state authority was not meant to be completely self-supporting, either. Part of its mission is to host youth agriculture events for the next generation of Georgia farmers.

Operating the fairgrounds costs about $600,000 per month, meaning the authority only climbs out of its annual budget hole at the October fair, when about 58 percent of its annual revenue arrives. In 2012, that was $4.6 million. The authority also has cut out events that make the least money and now focuses on higher margins per booking.

The fairgrounds are open all year and sometimes host more than one event at a time.

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