No increase in admission price to fair |

No increase in admission price to fair

One year after increasing parking rates during the Nevada County Fair, the board of directors abandoned plans this week to raise the price of admission to the annual event by $1.

The board of directors declined to consider a proposal to increase admission prices to $6 for adults and $2 for children for the 2005 event, which runs from Aug. 10 to 14 this year.

Fair CEO Ed Scofield had sought the increase to help offset rising utility costs and repair some of the aging electric and gas hook-ups along Treat Street, the row of nonprofit food vendors that set up shop during the fair.

For the first time, the fair is also being asked to foot the Grass Valley Police Department’s $6,158 bill for traffic controls during the large event’s five-day run. The fair already pays the California Highway Patrol $21,500 to enforce parking rules during the event.

An increase in the admission price would have generated an additional $45,000 for the fair and help keep the board’s reserve funds steady, Scofield said.

Members of the 17th District Agricultural Association, the board that sets policy for the Nevada County Fairgrounds, worried Tuesday that a price hike would keep attendance down and discourage families from attending.

“Do we have to (boost revenues) on the backs of the people who come to the fair?” asked Lynda Lasich.

The board questioned the increase during a time of decreasing attendance at the fair over the past few years.

Last year’s fair drew 103,663 patrons. The 2003 fair drew 108,672 attendees, up from 103,500 in 2002. The fair drew an estimated 110,000 paying customers in 2001, down from the estimated 120,000 attendees in 2000.

Board members feared raising the price might drive away new customers.

“The decline in attendance speaks for itself. We can’t assume there’s going to be an increase (in paying customers) this year,” Lasich said.

The admission price increase would have helped pay for construction of a new livestock barn and repaving of Treat Street to make it easier for those with wheelchairs and strollers to navigate the road.

The board last year approved a $1 increase in parking fees, setting the fee for the fairgrounds lot at $4.

Don McKay, 58, has attended the fair since he paid 50 cents to enter the gates back in the 1960s.

“Things have changed, obviously, but the fair’s gotten to be a much bigger draw,” he said.

McKay took his two grown children to the fair for years, and now makes sure his 7-year-old doesn’t miss it. During the fair, McKay helps sell bratwurst at the Nevada City United Methodist Church’s booth.

It’s a sign of the times, McKay said, that prices have to go up eventually.

“I don’t want the raises to seem automatic,” he said.

Scofield said that’s unlikely to happen for a while. He doesn’t plan to bring the issue up again before the end of the year.

“The board has made their intentions clear,” Scofield said.

Comparing fairs

The Nevada County Fair board has decided to hold the line on admission prices for the 2005 Nevada County Fair, which runs from Aug. 10-14, 2005.

The adult price will stay at $5 and child price at $2. Military personnel in uniform will still get in for free, and parking will remain unchanged at $4.

Here’s how the Nevada County Fair’s prices compare with other area fairs:

• Placer County Fair, Roseville – Adults: $7, seniors (62-plus): $5, children 6-12: $4; under 5: free. Parking is $4.

• El Dorado County Fair, Placerville: General admission: $7; children 7-12: $4; under 6: free; seniors 60-plus: $5.

• Gold Country Fair, Auburn: Adults: $7; seniors 65-plus: $5; children 6-12: $4; military and those under 6: free. Parking is $4.

• Sacramento County Fair, Sacramento: Free admission, $7 parking.

• Yolo County Fair, Woodland: Free admission, $5 parking.

– David Mirhadi

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