Corbin H. Crable
Although area events and activities have felt the effects of the economic recession, the Johnson County Fair has a more sizable foe to deal with: the weather. And with the recent bouts of sweltering heat mixed with deluges of rain, fair organizers must be ready for anything.
“What affects us most is the weather,” said Spring Hill resident Matt Meek, Fair Board president. “If we have a hot week, we see a decrease in attendance.”
Meek said that as a pre-emptive strike against inclement weather, fair organizers try to schedule plenty of activities indoors on the fairgrounds.
“We try to have a good mixture of stuff in the arena, and we also try to have a lot of free events to make (the fair) recession-proof. That’s what we’ve done throughout.”
Financially, the fair relies in large part on donations from businesses and individuals throughout Johnson County, and the number of donations has dropped significantly in recent years.
“We’ve received quite a few sponsorships as far as monetary donations, but it’s down quite a bit from last year and the year before,” he noted. “But we also have some people who have traded out in kind – they’ll loan us equipment, for instance. (Those trades) have remained about the same.”
Meek said that as the fair continues to feel the effects of the recession, board members have had to branch out and ask for donations using different methods.
“We’ve tried to be creative when we ask for sponsorships,” he said. “We have different (sponsorship) levels, and we also try to match a business with something that makes sense with the fair. For instance, Farm Bureau sponsors our Grandpa’s Barn petting zoo, and they continue to be strong supporters of ours.”
Steve Devore, president of the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce, said he can tell the recession has taken a toll on business’s participation in the fair – fewer business owners, it seems, have purchased and sponsored sheep to coincide with this year’s theme, for instance.
“I know there are several local businesses that have purchased the sheep, and those are in various stages of completion,” Devore said. “It’s my understanding that the numbers are a bit down from where they were last year. But from my standpoint, that’s just one more example of how we can come together as a community and support ourselves. It’s a positive project.”
Devore encouraged local businesses to become involved, too, in the fair parade, which is sponsored by the chamber. He said he believes the $10 registration fee is well worth it when one considers the exposure businesses will receive.
“What an economical way to advertise your business and support the local community,” Devore said. “The more entries we have, the better the parade will be. From a chamber standpoint, that’s very cheap advertising.”
Meek said, however, that an even greater challenge that faces the fair every year is attempting to prepare for the unpredictable Kansas weather. And this year, he said, will be no different – but fair organizers this year are taking a more relaxed attitude regarding Mother Nature’s plans.
“There’s no need to worry about (the weather) when we have no control over it,” he said. “We’re talking August in Kansas, so it’ll be hot. It never fails. And we usually get a bit of rain as well.”
Meek said those wanting to escape the weather will be able to enjoy shows and exhibits in the air-conditioned buildings on the fairgrounds.
“We just try to make sure there are places where people can go to get out of the sun,” he said. “A couple of our buildings are air-conditioned, and we’ve installed fans in our un-air-conditioned buildings to get air circulating.”
According to weather.com, conditions for the first three days of the fair are expected to be mostly sunny with highs in the upper 80s and low 90s.
On the Web:
Johnson County Fair: www.jocokansasfair.com
Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce: www.gardnerchamber.com