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County Fair Benefits Community and Businesses

SeelhammerCounty fairs across the country have their roots in connecting business and community members to each other and to the latest agricultural inventions.

At least that’s the history of county fairs. But what about today? County fairs are stepping up to the challenge to not only continue these business and community connections but also enhance them, while branching out and making technological connections, too.

The Coconino County Fair is no different, and in terms of making a business impact, we can count at least two million of them.

The annual Coconino County Fair, held over Labor Day weekend, is the most popular event in Northern Arizona. More than 40,000 people regularly visit the four-day event, which is held at Fort Tuthill County Park Fairgrounds. The County Fair instills the next generation with business skills, community partnerships and connections, and camaraderie through participation in local 4-H Clubs and Groups and the Northern Arizona Junior Livestock Association.

The County Fair also helps showcase technological innovations and environmental stewardship through partnerships with local clubs like CocoNuts, Flagstaff Unified School District’s robotics team, and Kids for Conservation, a program through the Northern Arizona University School of Forestry.

The County Fair is truly a community event where adult and youth community members exhibit animals and handicrafts, and people of all ages enjoy the various entertainment acts, carnival rides and games. Local businesses help support the fair by becoming sponsors, and in turn, further the fair operations and programming. Sponsors and vendors help make the fair a dynamic experience for fairgoers and also showcase new and exciting innovations.

The fair typically hosts 30 food vendors and 50 commercial and non-profit vendors, with the majority based in Arizona.

During the 67 years of the fair, we periodically survey fairgoers to find out how to improve the event and make it even more successful. During the 2015 fair, Coconino County Parks and Recreation teamed up with NAU’s Arizona Hospitality Research and Resource Center in the W.A. Franke School of Business to conduct a visitor survey of the Coconino County Fair.

Throughout the four days of the fair, surveyors asked fairgoers some demographic information like where they live, event satisfaction questions such as what they like most about the fair, and how much money they spent on food, beverages, the carnival and more. Additionally, we wanted to find out what economic contribution the Coconino County Fair has to the local community.

While it’s hard to say what a “typical” fairgoer looks like, we know that about three-fourths, or 71 percent, are repeat attendees, and 73 percent are local residents, while one-fourth, 27 percent, are from outside Coconino County. Survey respondents also said they really like the livestock exhibits and the fair entertainment.

Also, fairgoers bought a lot of food and beverages (hm, that was not much of a surprise), and the food vendors were rated highest for the variety of food options available. As a side note, fair planning staff work hard to have unique food options available. (You might want to check out this year’s maple bacon donut burger.) Overall, the survey told us that fairgoers are very satisfied with the fair.

And the economic contribution of the Coconino County Fair to the local area? The survey calculated local and non-local expenditures to develop the contribution of the fair to the regional economy of Coconino County. Based on survey respondents and their spending, the fair’s economic contribution is calculated at $2.05 million and 27 full-time equivalent jobs.

When taking into account the social benefits and the economic benefits to the region, the fair represents an important investment that the county and all our residents and visitors make to the community. QCBN

By Cynthia Seelhammer

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