Rain dampens profit, attendance at Bangor State Fair

Thousands make their rounds through the Bangor State Fairground Saturday afternoon, July 30, 2011.
Thousands make their rounds through the Bangor State Fairground Saturday afternoon, July 30, 2011.
Posted Aug. 08, 2011, at 7:21 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Steady showers rained out nearly two full days of the Bangor State Fair but failed to wash out profits entirely.

“We lost most of Tuesday, especially Tuesday evening, and obviously Sunday,” said Mike Dyer, executive director of Bass Park. “I’d be shocked if it isn’t less than the $87,000 profit we had last year. I’m thinking around $67,000 to $72,000.”

The overall exact total profit won’t be known for a few days.

“The midway rental space we sell is up, but not all our bills are in yet, so we don’t know our net,” he said Monday.

Final attendance numbers aren’t known, either, but it’s certain that they’re down.

“Through the gate, what we had was 57,325 people, but we haven’t tied in the groups and pass holders yet,” Dyer explained. “I think that’s 6,000 lower than 2010.”

“We were down almost 8,000 as of Wednesday, but after Friday, we were only down 1,700,” Dyer continued. “And then we got whacked by the weather part of Saturday and all of Sunday.”

It wasn’t nearly as bad as in 2008, when the fair was especially hard hit by bad weather. Attendance was down in the low 40,000s, according to Dyer.

The third year of using $10 admissions that gives buyers access to all shows, events and rides was again a big success.

“We were normally making $12,000 to $15,000 each year before we went to the pay-one-price in 2009,” said Dyer, who has been overseeing the fair for 24 years. “That year, we had a net profit of $103,000 and last year it was just under $87,000.”

Dyer said he has found that people are coming to the fair more than once with the $10 admission system.

“The formula is right, but what we have to tinker with each year is the attractions and shows,” he said. “The sea lions were the hit we thought they’d be. We’d been trying to get them for five years. And the rattlesnake and lumberjack shows drew well, too.”

Dyer said the $10 admission price — which doesn’t cover food, drinks or games — may also have to be tinkered with.

“Let’s face it, at some point the $10 entry will have to probably tick up to $12 or something because the cost of doing business goes up,” he said.

With an operating budget of $425,000 to $475,000, even decreased profits are much better than none at all for fair operator Fiesta Shows and the city of Bangor.

“The city retains 62 percent of every dollar up through $650,000, then 55 percent for the city for $650,000 to $700,000,” Dyer said. “After $700,000, it’s a 50-50 split.”

A new feature — a concert on each of the Fair’s nine nights — seemed to play well with attendees.

“Overall, we’re very pleased,” Dyer said. “We were kind of amazed that the more contemporary acts didn’t draw as well as the two tribute bands [Aerosmith tribute band Draw the Line and Journey band Faithfully]. Maine bands Rustic Overtones and Dead Season both did well, but the two tribute bands blew them away.”

Dyer said while other events such as the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, KahBang in Bangor, and concerts at the Waterfront Pavilion were happening at the same time as the fair, he doesn’t see a net negative effect from the competition.

“I’m a firm believer in activity begetting activity,” he explained. “As a whole, I’m not upset about other activity because I think it’s all mutually beneficial.”

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