Carnival rides are spinning, kids are showing their prize livestock and the bacon-wrapped turkey legs are smoking on the grill at the Colorado State Fair. It goes on through Monday in Pueblo. But in Denver, some legislators are worried about its bottom line.
"We’re seeing as possible, a situation where the state fair isn’t going to be sustainable in the future," says state Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton. He serves on the legislative audit committee and is concerned about the fair’s annual shortfall, some $3.3 million last year -- or a fraction of that, depending on who does the accounting.
Colorado State Fair General Manager Chris Wiseman says that the shortfall is closer to $500,000 if state funds are counted as part of the operating revenue and if depreciation isn't included in the deficit.
Neville says it’s time to consider "every opportunity to reduce the costs and also put the state fair in a position where it’s going to be here for future generations."
Some have suggested that moving the fair out of Pueblo -- potentially to the National Western Stock Show facility-- would help. But Wiseman doesn't agree. He says there's more competition for entertainment dollars in the Denver metro area, and the average daily attendance at the stock show is lower than the fair.
And Wiseman says there are ways to generate additional revenue for the fair to shore up the budget, such as increasing the number of non-fair events held at the fairgrounds throughout the year. He also notes that state fairs around the country get more outside funding from the respective state government or from other sources like gambling or lodging taxes.
Wiseman will step down from his post as the general manager of the Colorado State Fair when this year’s fair is over. But he’ll still be involved with the fair in his new position as the deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Wiseman spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.