Chamber of commerce tapped to run Washington County Fair, will consider potential changes

The 2016 Washington County Fair, Hurricane, Utah, Aug. 10, 2016 | File photo by Cami Cox Jim, St. George News

ST. GEORGE The results of a survey asking for ways to improve the Washington County Fair are in and are being considered by the fair’s new event coordinators.

Attendees at the 2016 Washington County Fair, Hurricane, Utah, Aug. 10, 2016 | File photo by Cami Cox Jim, St. George News

Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson announced during a commission meeting Tuesday that the results of the online survey had been compiled and reviewed.

It was also announced that the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce is the new event coordinator.

The county will pay the chamber an estimated $50,000 annually, Iverson said, adding that final details are being worked out and an attorney is reviewing the deal. He said the chamber will hire a person who will handle the fair along with other duties for the private business organization.

The county last month parted ways with former fair director Wendy Sandberg, who was paid $28,000 a year. She was involved in the county fair for 30 years, including running it the last 20.

Read more: Longtime Washington County Fair director let go over ‘communication breakdown’

Sandberg did not agree with the direction Iverson suggested taking the fair and decided to retire at the end of this year after training her replacement. Instead, the commission chose not to renew her contract.

Iverson called the situation an unfortunate “communication breakdown,” yet has regularly given Sandberg credit for what her longtime leadership has done for the county fair.

The fair has grown to become one of the county’s largest events and draws up to 40,000 people annually.

However, the online survey revealed some dissatisfaction.

Washington County Fair Parade, Tabernacle Street, St. George, Utah, Aug. 10, 2013 | File photo by Jeremy Crawford, St. George News

An estimated 1,600 respondents favored changing the date of the fair due to heat and other factors, lowering admissions costs and potentially bringing in more events, among other items.

“We know that heat is always a factor; it was one of the biggest complaints (in the survey),” said Susi Lafaele, the chamber’s director of operations.

The annual county fair has been held in August, which is also too close to the start of the school year, some survey respondents said.

Over 80 percent of respondents favor changing the month the fair is held. April (39 percent) or May (31 percent) were the most popular months to hold it.

Changing the date will not happen this year, Lafaele said, but the chamber is looking at supplying cooler, shadier areas for fair attendees.

More shade will just be one of many changes.

“We would like to bring in some bigger events in the evenings,” Lafaele said. “Keep the demolition derby, keep the boxing. Maybe throw in some MMA. We’d like to do a barn dance, a rodeo, have a big concert with fireworks so there’s something big happening every night on top of what has been offered in the past.”

Survey respondents said they enjoyed the demolition derby, yet added the price of admission was too high. The price of admission to the fair and the accompanying rides in the carnival were also a focus of some of the comments.

“The derby is WAY (too) expensive to take a family to. The tickets are far (too) overpriced,” one comment read.

Other respondents said they would like to see a rodeo attached to the fair. One commenter said they wanted to see pig wrestling added.

Demolition derby at the 2013 Washington County Fair, Hurricane, Utah, Aug. 10, 2013 | File photo by Jeremy Crawford, St. George News

The survey asked attendees how important the fair’s carnival was to them, with a majority favoring it. Nearly 20 percent of survey respondents felt it wasn’t important at all.

In recent years, the fair has had different themes attached. One year was a superhero theme while last year centered on pirates.

Nearly two out of three respondents felt the theme was important. Of those, 32 percent found it moderately important. Sixteen percent found the theme “extremely” or “very” important, while an additional 17 percent found it “slightly” important.

“The goal is to celebrate Washington County,” Lafaele said, adding the chamber will place a renewed emphasis on the county’s heritage and culture. “We all know how great is it to live here, but we want other people to know too.”

One survey respondent said the county fair needs “some trademark items” that stand out and are unique.

“Wash Co fair needs some trademark items like they do in Iowa, etc. Deep fried green jello or something. Something that says “Washington County.” Emphasize something unique. Pecans or something.” the comment states.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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4 Comments

  • utahdiablo January 11, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    So we push out Wendy, who was making $28,000 from the Fair, to now the Chamber of Commerce who wants to charge us $50,000?….Holy Hell, what a Racket the Utah Greed Machine is….can’t wait for the Mighty Minds to come together to end up charging us double the cost to attend this year in the heat

    • Redbud January 11, 2019 at 9:58 pm

      You might be right $50,000 could be too much, but there is one thing I am certain of though. Move the county fair to dates with better weather, and there will be a dramatic increase in attendance. That act alone will improve it so much, even the first year they enact this change.

  • Susan January 12, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    When you get the same stale old lady running a massive county fairgrounds,you get what you pay for. Now we can move foreward with fresh events that will cater to the the 150,000 people looking for entertainment that only a fairgrounds complex could bring. Pull your head out of the sand,and research same size counties,and you will be amazed how many cool events happen in fairground complexes around the country. $50k is nothing to pay someone full time who can bring the events up to our expectations.

    • KR567 January 13, 2019 at 3:28 am

      Susan……well said. !!!!

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