Fair trade – For area businesses, fairgrounds provides yearlong boon
Lori Rollins looks forward to the Flea Market and the Old West Antique Show every year.
Greg Cook knows from experience that the Sierra Brewfest and music events are good for his restaurant.
Robyn Ramey Adams can tell when the Nevada County Fair and Draft Horse Classic are approaching by looking at advance hotel reservations.
All of these events have one thing in common – they are held annually at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, and along with dozens of other events, bring a lot of money to the area.
A detailed study of fairgrounds events in 2002 concluded that all of the events generated over $21.2 million in economic activity, almost 10 percent of the $222.9 million spent in the county that year on tourist-related activities.
Over 270,000 people attended events at the fairgrounds in 2002, and spent an estimated $9.8 million. Business direct spending, which includes commercial exhibitors, added another $6.9 million, and indirect spending that occurs throughout the supply chain was almost $4.5 million.
The biggest chunk of that money – 55.9 percent – was spent during the County Fair, but all of the events at the fairgrounds provided a year-round economic stimulus to western Nevada County, according to the analysis by KPMG LLP Economic Consulting Services.
“The fair and its interim events are a powerful economic engine harnessed by the fair organization,” the report concluded.
While the County Fair has the highest profile of all of the events at the fairgrounds, every activity has its impact on the local economy. Some target very specific markets.
For Rollins, owner of the Antique Emporium in Grass Valley, the Old West Antique Show in May is an event that benefits all area antique dealers.
“That’s a big one,” she said last week, “because it brings in more people interested in antiques. That targets a very specific group of people we love. They come from far away, not just the state, but all over the United States.”
“Anything that brings people to town is helpful,” she said, “but there are several events that are big enough to be noticeable, as far as foot traffic going through the store.” She cited the County Fair, the Draft Horse Classic, and the Father’s Day Blue Grass Festival.
Cook, owner of Friar Tuck’s Restaurant and Bar in Nevada City, believes activities like the Sierra Brewfest and musical events “are real beneficial to the restaurant owners.”
“In the past 10 years, (Fair CEO) Ed Scofield has done a real good job of bringing a lot of events to the fairgrounds,” he added. “It’s a real treat for us.”
Adams, co-owner of the Northern Queen Inn in Nevada City, said weekend events at the fairgrounds are “always really, really busy for us,” but she particularly looks forward to the fair and Draft Horse Classic.
While 65 percent of the people who attend the fair come for the day, there’s still plenty of demand for beds at area motels and bed-and-breakfasts.
“We always fill up for the fair way in advance, just because there’s a limited number of rooms in the area,” she said. “We get a lot of guests who return. Many times, they make their reservations (for next year) before they leave.”
Adams describes the Draft Horse Classic as “a sell-out a year in advance.”
Cathy Whittlesey, executive manager of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, is impressed by the level of spending by classic attendees. “It’s unbelievable to me, the cars they drive, the money they spend,” she said.
She points out that nonprofits also benefit from activity at the fairgrounds. According to the KPMG analysis, nonprofits raised $238,000 at the 2002 fair, while the Junior Livestock Auction brought in over $414,000.
“If it wasn’t for all of the activities going on at the fairgrounds, I think we’d all be hurting,” Rollins said. “They bring in an influx of new people who are enthusiastic about what we have to offer.”
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