Fair comes to an end | CraigDailyPress.com

Fair comes to an end

Organizers already working on plans for 2006

Michelle Balleck

The golden sunset cast a warm glow over the empty grandstands at the Moffat County Fairgrounds as another fair came to a close Saturday evening.

The 87th annual Moffat County Fair went well, Moffat County Colorado State University Extension Service Director Elisa Shackelton said, but there’s something missing.

“Things are growing, but we’ve got to start thinking about marketing and trying to entice people to come out,” she said.

She was particularly pleased with the pavilion, or open class, entries.

Photography entries have exploded since the addition of digital pictures. This year community members submitted 202 photographs, a new record.

“We’re about to outgrow our seams over there,” she said.

Other popular pavilion classes were the wine and salsa contests. After the judging, the public was invited to sample the entries.

Overall, there were more than 700 participants in the pavilion competitions, and many submitted several projects. A total of 232 4-Hers enrolled this year, which is fairly consistent with other years.

“It’s a pretty amazing event when you think about what a bunch of volunteers can do,” Shackelton said.

Friday’s bingo game attracted the largest crowd Shackelton has ever seen there. She estimates there were more than 100 people who came out to play and receive free root beer floats from County Clerk and Recorder Elaine Sullivan.

Shackelton also noted more vendors than in years past, but fears they will get discouraged by the lack of interest in their products.

Shackelton said fair organizers do not officially measure attendance, because there is no charge to get in, so there’s no way to know for sure if the numbers are up or down.

But, by her observations, there were fewer people at this year’s fair than in the past. The people who did come, she said, are participants and their families.

“This is not a spectator event,” she said.

“We need to bring in some things that will attract the people who wouldn’t already be here.”

One way to do that would be to join forces with other festivals, like Grand Olde West Days or the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.

“I really think this community has got to pull together and do something together,” she said, “instead of individual organizations doing their own events.”

She thinks by hiring a county event planner, festival organizers could track bands coming through the area, or start planning for carnivals to come a few years down the road. A planner could also help with advertising the fair’s attractions.

“We’ve got to get on top of out tourism opportunities,” Shackelton said.

Marianna Raftopoulos has been coming to the fair to help her children compete in 4-H for more than 10 years and sees the same issues Shackelton does.

“Somehow, we have to find a niche,” she said, “because the fair really is for the community.”

Some ideas tossed around throughout the week included bigger name bands, a chocolate dessert competition and a second attempt at the beer garden, tried at the 2004 fair.

Shackelton is hoping over the next few months, organizers can start to brainstorm fresh ideas to make the 2006 Moffat County Fair the best yet.

“There’s all this cool stuff out here,” Shackelton said. “But then you don’t get a big crowd, and they’re really missing out.”

Michelle Perry may be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com

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