Grant County Fair attendance, revenue up

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Rachal Pinkerton/Columbia Basin Herald Attendance at the Grant County Fair increased considerably this year, according to fairgrounds manager Jim McKiernan.

EPHRATA — Attendance – and revenue – were up for the first three days of the 2019 Grant County Fair. And with the fair now in the rear-view mirror, fairgrounds operators are looking at ways to boost year-round revenue and make improvements at the facility. Fairgrounds Manager Jim McKiernan reported preliminary results from the fair at the Grant County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

McKiernan said attendance and revenue data was available for the first three days only (Tuesday through Thursday). Attendance was up 7 percent on those days, while revenue was up 12 percent. In McKiernan’s opinion the fair stayed busy all week. “It was absolutely packed” Saturday night, even as closing time approached, he said.

But fair’s over; the fairgrounds are busy throughout the year, and McKiernan said he’s looking at options to increase revenue. To help with that he suggested a study of the campgrounds, with the goal of writing a master improvement plan. Commissioner Cindy Carter said RVs and trailers are bigger than they used to be, and that the campgrounds might need to be revised to reflect that. Commissioner Tom Taylor recommended beautification efforts around the campgrounds.

McKiernan said he wanted to add an option for online campground reservations, but that might require a camp host. A campgrounds master plan will be the first priority when planning the 2020 budget, he said.

Carter asked about plans for updating the permanent food booths, some of which were empty for this year’s fair. That included a large facility next to the Gold Gate driveway, which had been operated for a number of years by the Moses Lake Eagles Lodge.

Converting the building into a commercial kitchen is one of the options, McKiernan said. If that’s done, one option would be to let community groups use the upgraded building by the day during fair week, since some organizations have trouble finding enough volunteers for the entire week.

Some of the food booth vendors have asked for improvements, McKiernan said, and those requests are on the list of possible projects. Those projects are dependent on whether the fairgrounds owner, Grant County, will get a return on its investment, he said.

Carter asked about improving accommodations for people with physical handicaps. It’s easy to access most of the fairgrounds, she said, but some spots need more work. Taylor said he saw some customers having trouble getting to the food booths. McKiernan said one of the options is a paved walkway circling the area where food and carnival vendors set up.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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