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UTAH COUNTYUtah County officials didn't expect last year's Utah County Fair to break even, nor do they expect this year's fair to do so. But they would like to see it begin to narrow the gap between expenses and revenues.

The 1995 Utah County Fair will run from today through Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Spanish Fork City Fairgrounds. This year's fair is the second under the new county fair board, which brought back the event after a two-year absence.Funding for the fair is coming from proceeds of the county's 1 percent tax on prepared foods. Last year's fair cost the county nearly $70,000 of those tax proceeds - which have also gone to pay off the Utah Valley State College Special Events Center bond, as well as for selected community events throughout the county. Utah County Commission Chairman Gary Herbert said he and the other commissioners expect those expenses to decrease for this fair.

"I think we'll know a lot more about the fair's future after this year," Herbert said. "If we don't begin to narrow the gap in what we're spending and what we're getting back, then we're certainly going to have to take a serious look as to whether this is something people really want to support."

But fair organizer Susan Levanger said the event will certainly be a success this year. What may help her and other organizers reach that goal is the fact that they've done away with admission and parking fees. The only fees for this year's fair will be for carnival rides and concessions.

Those areas are also the fair's sole source of revenue, aside from the county. Concessionaires and L & L Amusements from Arizona, which will provide the fair's carnival, share their proceeds from ride tickets and food sales with the fair board.

"I think we're going to have a really great fair," Levanger said. "We're hoping for at least 40,000 people, which would be double what any of the last few fairs have done. I've been involved with fairs for 14 years, and I think this is going to be the best one yet, no question."

Herbert admits he is "cautiously optimistic" that the 1995 fair may be a return to the fair's heyday - back in the 1970s.

"It's only the second year under this fair board, but it appears to be extremely well-organized," he said, adding that commissioners will require the fair board to give them a status report, which includes revenues and expenditures, within a month of the fair's conclusion. "Whether that will translate to bigger attendance remains to be seen, though."

Herbert said the fair has been an important part of Utah County, because it gives an opportunity for local farmers and ranchers to display their work and it also provides an inexpensive evening or two of entertainment for financially strapped or large families.

"In other counties, the county fair is the single biggest event of the year. In this county it's been struggling to find a niche," he said. "In this county, (America's Freedom Festival at Provo) and the community celebrations have got a higher priority, but the fair serves an important purpose, especially for our agricultural interests."