New leadership for Summit County Fair
Kimball Arts Festival volunteer coordinator Travis English and Park Silly Sunday Market Executive Director and Co-founder Kimberly Kuehn have contracted with Summit County to head the Summit County Fair for the next two years.
"Kimberly is not doing it as a Silly Market entity," English said. "She was approached by the county and she asked me if I’d be interested, with my experience with the Kimball Art Center large event planning I’ve done. And I grew up in a rural area in Pennsylvania and attended the county fair every year. So it’s something I was raised with and thought would be a good fit."
English plans to leave the Kimball Arts Festival in a week to focus on promoting the fair.
"There are a lot of people in Summit County that don’t even know that there is a Summit County Fair going on in Coalville," he said.
English added that they want to keep the flavor of the weeklong event.
"It’s a historic fair," he said. "It’s been around since the early 1900s. We really want to accentuate the things that have already been going on, and maybe add some programs in the future. But right now we want to concentrate on the branding and awareness of the fair."
Kuehn added that they want to emphasize that Summit County is one community.
"It’s an agricultural event, and it’s part of our county," she said. "A lot of people in Park City don’t realize that we have a livestock sale that raises $300,000 during the County Fair."
Kuehn said they will initially focus on marketing and improving the existing programs.
"We’re adding a little more depth, such as making sure people are aware of when the rodeo queen applications are due, when you can get more education through the 4-H program, and when you can buy rodeo and derby tickets, which is May 1."
Future changes could include a new venue for the fair.
"The county wants to know if the fair should stay in Coalville on the existing land and rebuild the structures that are there," she said.
Some fair structures date back to 1926, she said. So the county will either need to renovate them or move the fair and build new structures.
A recent feasibility study paid for by the county looked into whether the Coalville fairgrounds could be renovated and what the cost would be compared to building new fairgrounds.
"The biggest thing that came back from that study, is that while the current fairgrounds could be renovated, the price tag for that versus building a new fairgrounds at a new location was similar," said Fair Board Chair Dirk Rockhill. "The current general location of the fair is still a good idea. Whether it is that facility or a new facility remains undecided, but I think we’re all in agreement that anywhere from Wanship to Coalville would be a good spot for the fairgrounds."
In the past, a lot of money was spent converting the arena for different uses, Rockhill said.
For example, after the Demolition Derby, dirt would have to be brought back into the arena for the Little Buckaroo Rodeo. The dirt would then be removed again for the ATV rodeo and then brought back in once again for the Rodeo.
"We’ve now revised the schedule so that all the automotive events are on the first weekend and all the course and rodeo events are on the second weekend," Rockhill added.
The food booth area is being relocated this year to provide more options to patrons. The grandstand is also being relocated to allow outdoor concerts and dances.
Fair attendance and ticket sales have declined for the last few years, with a steady decline followed by a drastic decline for the last two years, Rockhill said.
"We are seeing a decline in fairs in some locations, yet fairs at other locations are doing better," he said. "The only ones getting better are the ones who are progressing their facilities. So it comes back to the old saying, that you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result."
Rockhill attributes the Summit County Fair’s lower attendance levels to the aging facilities and failure to keep up with current trends
"Times change and people’s interests change," he said. "It’s not our grandfather’s fair. So my intent with the new leadership is to bring a different, and I hope better, result. We have offered this contract to Kimberly and Travis to try to update coordination, and to bring in better marketing potential and up-to-current activities and events."
The theme for this year’s fair is, "The tradition continues."
"The reason we are doing that is to make sure everyone knows it is still the county fair," Rockhill said. "We still have the Rodeo, the Demolition Derby, livestock, the parade and the food booths. They may be on different nights, and they may be at different venues, but hopefully it is consistent with our desire for the fair to evolve, change and grow with the times.
"We’re still trying to fit into the same jeans we wore when we were six years old. We have to buy new jeans, and that’s what we’re doing," said Rockhill.
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The Coalville native doesn’t see any major roadblocks for this year’s fair, though presenting in front of the County Council is a little nerve wracking.