The Swine Arena at the Clark County Fairgrounds. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Coronavirus: Shut-down has cost Clark County Fair nearly $150,000 since late March

The Clark County Fair Board is already dealing with financial losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic even as it works on potential plans for the 2020 fair amid the public health crisis.

Executive director Dean Blair said events canceled after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a stay-at-home order in March have cost the fair more than $147,000 in revenue so far.

FULL COVERAGE: The coronavirus pandemic

“We are completely out of business, and we are a multitude of different businesses,” Blair said. “We’re a retail center with retail events like Walneck’s swap meet and antique shows and things like that, but we don’t fall under the retail category yet. We’re hoping we do soon. We’re also a campground, and we’re closed under that, and then we’re also a fair, and we’re closed under that, so we just need to get back to some kind of revenue and some kind of events but yet we too, want to make sure that we’re very, very safe, and that we’re very, very much in compliance with what’s wanted.”

According to the most recently available tax records, the Clark County Agricultural Society claimed revenues of nearly $2.5 million in the fiscal year ending November 2018, but after expenses the nonprofit cleared $125, 395.

The revenue includes $855,463 for the junior fair, but Blair said money going in and out through the livestock sales accounted for nearly all of that figure.

Fairground rentals also accounted for $613,374 while admissions and fees brought in $493,332 and $112,049 came from “other operating income.”

Blair said the $147,000 lost so far this year would come out of the rentals category, including both camping and events that have been canceled.

While it has been a tough couple of months financially, there is some hope for the rest of the year.

With different types of businesses being allowed to open in the state throughout May, the fair board is hopeful it can resume activities as well.

While the Springfield Swap Meet and Car Show has been moved from late May to June 26-28, Walneck’s Motorcycle Swap Meet remains on the schedule for June 7 and could be held with social distancing if the ban on mass gatherings is lifted.

That ban is set to run through May 29, but DeWine said when it was extended that date was not necessarily final.

“Even if those events, require social distancing – and I’m sure they will, and that’s fine because we want to be safe – we can return to having some business that way we can actually weather the storm and probably recoup maybe half of what we’ve lost this year,” Blair said.

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The Clark County Fair is scheduled to begin July 24, and there are multiple boating events on the calendar in June and July.

Blair also said the board is hopeful campgrounds will reopen sooner or later this summer.

What the fair might look like is still being worked out. DeWine said earlier this month a working group has been established to consider best practices for fairs, but he would like to see fairs find a way to at least have 4-H and FFA projects and exhibitors.

Blair said that could be pulled off in Clark County, but the preference would be to have a full fair because things like rides, food and entertainment are the real revenue drivers for the fair.

Currently, the fair board estimates putting on only a junior fair would cost around $75,000 to $100,000, a figure that accounts for utilities, judging fees, manure removal and an anticipated increase in sanitation practices.

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In the meantime, the board is still working to bring in money.

Blair said more than half of the fair’s regular corporate sponsors are still planning to make contributions, and anyone can donate either directly to the agricultural society or its endowment set up through the Springfield Foundation.

“Our corporate sponsorship campaign has been so critical these last four years and helped us put on a better fair and really grow,” Blair said. “And there’s about 50 sponsors that are involved in that typically, and we have seen about 30 of those sponsors this year, even with this uncertainty, renew their sponsorships. They’re sending in and remitting their sponsorship money. They know and we have promised them that in the event there is no fair this year or no full fair, then they will be prepaid for the ‘21 fair.

“More importantly than ever, I think those ag families in Clark County are going to look at that short list of sponsors, and say, ‘Wow, these are the people that have helped us stay in existence. They’re important to us.’”

Clark County residents also can purchase a membership in the ag society. For $30, that includes admission to the fair daily and the right to vote on its board for next year.

“If we have a fair, you got a prepaid entrance,” Blair said. “If we don’t have a fair or we just have a junior fair, you have voting rights.”

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