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Bad weather in 2002 could doom 2003 fair

SHARE Bad weather in 2002 could doom 2003 fair

If the weather is bad for this year's Utah State Fair, there may not be enough money to stage the event in 2003, the fair's executive director warned a state legislative committee Wednesday afternoon.

Donna Dahl, executive director of the Utah State Fair, told the House Economic Development and Human Resources Appropriations Subcommittee that the fair suffered a $350,000 decrease in revenues at the 2002 State Fair since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks caused fewer people to attend the annual fair.

With $350,000 less in revenue from 2001, Dahl said another year of low attendance would mean the fair board would have to make up another shortfall and it simply may not have the financial resources to do so. She said if that happened and even if next year's Legislature came up with some extra funding, that wouldn't come soon enough to pull off the September 2003 event.

Dahl is also concerned because of the way the Legislature gives the fair funding. Every year she has to plead her case to state, to receive about $370,000 in supplemental funding. She said that's far less than the $700,000 the fair used to get from the state before it became a quasi state agency a few years ago.

"We're just pleading for our normal budget," Dahl said, requesting the Legislature to restore its $700,000 supplemental funding on an automatic basis.

Dahl said when the state's funding was reduced by about half, it was assumed the fair could be a self-supporting entity. However, that hasn't happened, yet mostly because its facilities aren't multi-purpose enough to provide year-round usage and revenue.

She said the fair has 147 years of history at its current location and is proud to be providing 86 percent of its annual $4 million operating budget.

A recent study committee, appointed Governor Leavitt, concluded the Utah State Legislature should provide a permanent means of funding the maintenance, enhancement and multi-use development of the fairground's facilities. It also said some business partnerships could lead to a year-round utilization of the facilities.

This year has proven one of the leanest years in the State Legislative budget in the past decade. While the Appropriations Subcommittee isn't making any financial decisions until after all its days of hearings have ended, it did indicate it will consider restoring the fair's automatic funding and may recommend an extra $150,000 for the fair be put on the budget wish list.