Georgia National Fair revenue down 7 percent

PERRY — Despite increased attendance this year, revenue from the Georgia National Fair was down 7 percent over last year, mostly because of poor concert sales, the Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority reported Wednesday.

The fair, which took place Oct. 8-18, brought in $3.9 million this year, down from $4.2 million in 2008, according to figures from the authority. The fair’s four concerts generated $322,644 from ticket sales, fair admission, service charge fees and merchandise sales. The cost of producing the shows, however, was about $167,000 more than what they brought in, figures show.

As a result, fair organizers plan to hold only two concerts next year.

“We are aiming for two higher quality concerts,” board member Danny J. Brown said.

None of the concerts sold out this year. The concert with the highest attendance, Montgomery Gentry with special guest Julianne Hough, was at about 61 percent capacity, according to the authority. Other concerts featured Rodney Atkins and Chuck Wicks; Mitchel Musso and Nat & Alex Wolff; and David Cook.

Brown said he wanted all the concerts to sell out.

State Sen. Ross Tolleson, who serves on the overview committee, said having only a single-digit decline from 2008 was good.

“The state revenues are declining in heavy double-digit figures,” Tolleson said. “It’s tough, brutal right now, but we have a good story to tell.”

The fair’s overall attendance was up 2.4 percent and attendance records were set Oct. 8, Oct. 9, Oct. 13 and Oct. 18.

The estimated economic impact of the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter on the state was more than $38 million for the month of September and October, according to the authority.

Chief Administrative Officer Ron Goldsby reported that in five years, the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter will be less than 10 percent dependent on the state.

“We are trying to be as cost efficient as possible,” Goldsby said.

Goldsby also said he thought this year was one of the best fairs because of the challenges the weather and the economy presented.

Also at the meeting, three people were promoted.

Bob Irwin was named chief operating officer of the fairgrounds. Irwin has been with the fairgrounds for 20 years.

Teresa Hawk was named special events coordinator. Lora Aldridge, who has worked as the director of the fine arts program for 20 years, is retiring at the end of the year and will be replaced by Sandy Kusuda as the new director. Michele Treptow, director of communications, will oversee the fine arts program.

Before the board meeting, there was a ceremony to dedicate the physical plant to Jerry E. Horton. Horton was the first person employed at the fairgrounds in 1987. In 2008, he retired as the building/grounds superintendent. Horton passed away July 8. His widow, Carol Horton, and children Jennifer Horton, Jerry Horton Jr. and Cindy Hester attended the ceremony and the unveiling of a new monument to Horton.

“This was Jerry’s home away from home,” Carol Horton said.

To contact writer Angela Woolen, call 923-5650.