Originally published in the Yellowstone County News on 8/21/15.
by Evelyn Pyburn
BILLINGS — Most revenue and attendance records for Montana Fair were broken this year, according to MetraPark administrators, in reporting to Yellowstone County Commissioners, following the conclusion of the 100th Anniversary, 8-day event that ended last Saturday.
People were expecting “a safe, fun and friendly fair,” said Manager Bill Dutcher, “and that was what we provided.” There were no emergencies to mar the fun for the 236,200 people who attended the fair – over 4,000 more than last year’s attendance of 231,888. The weather was perfect, said Dutcher, who added that he fully appreciated that fact in greeting the rains which began this week.
Gate revenues were up 10 percent and so were the sale of value passes, reported Assistant Manager Sue DeVries, who was pleased with the success of value passes, because they “make the fair affordable and that was our goal.” At $59 each, they sold 467 more than last year.
Gate admission revenue was about $480,000.
Not all the numbers are in yet, noted DeVries, and final data will be made available as the Advisory Board and as staff members meet for a final assessment of the fair. Plans for the next MontanaFair have already started, said Dutcher. In fact, they actually started before this fair was over.
Value passes provided gate admissions and general admission to night events such as the concerts and rodeo. Night shows reflected the only loss of the fair, coming in $80,000 in the red, but DeVries pointed out their attendance fueled midway activities.
The Mighty Thomas Carnival set records on five of the eight days, pulling in $1,044,632, of which MetraPark gets 40 percent, or $439,483. MetraPark gets 20 percent of food sales by outside vendors, which netted about $185,000.
All the grounds entertainment proved to be very popular. And, said DeVries, the performers were very pleased with Billings audiences, commenting on how friendly the people were. Commissioner Bill Kennedy commented, “People filled the seats for all the acts on the grounds.”
Paid parking “has been discovered,” said DeVries, and was sold out every night. They could use more, she said.
Sponsorships, at $108,500, for MontanaFair also increased, up from $96,500 in 2014.
The featured daily events of the fair were also extremely successful, said DeVries. Seniors’ Day packed in over a thousand attendees for lunch; Veterans’ Day was the biggest ever, and Energy Day was “huge,” with over 350 people attending the reception.
Commissioner John Ostlund told MetraPark administrators, “You have raised the bar every year. It’s hard to keep improving year after year.”