Study Shows Economic Value of NY’s County Fairs

1/26/2013 7:00 AM
By Paul Post New York Correspondent

GREENWICH, N.Y. — New York state’s 55 county fairs support 4,000 jobs and generate nearly $8.3 million in tax revenue for host communities, a new report says.

The study, “A Statewide Summary of Agricultural Fairs: Economic & Fiscal Impacts,” was prepared for a county fairs association by Camoin Associates of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The document, released this week, provides valuable data, such as where visitors come from, and may serve as a tool for obtaining state marketing and promotional funding.

“This is something we can bring to the Legislature and say, Look, our fairs have an impact,’ “ said Ida Williams of the Washington County Fair in Greenwich, N.Y. “At present, we don’t get any I Love New York funding.”

Washington County’s fair, considered mid-size, is one of four such events the report focused on. Others were the Erie County Fair, New York’s largest, held at The Fairgrounds, where Buffalo Raceway and Hamburg Casino are located; Dutchess County, the second-largest, a Mid-Hudson Valley event that attracts many metro New York residents; and the Jefferson County Fair, representative of smaller ones.

“It’s a way for those organizations to also show their value to the community,” said Christa Franzi, of Camoin Associates, who worked on the study.

For example, Dutchess County Fairgrounds, in Rhinebeck, doesn’t generate property taxes, which could lead to calls for its commercial development. However, this year’s crowds of 342,244 people generated $34,413,679 worth of sales and $1.36 million in tax revenue.

“To capture the true impacts, we count only new’ spending, which we define as spending by visitors coming from outside the county where the fair is held,” the report states. “They may spend money on lodging, restaurants, transportation, retail or other goods and services. Employees of those businesses may, in turn, spend a portion of their wages locally, creating additional economic impacts.”

Washington County is one of the main beneficiaries of this type of spending. Of the fair’s record 120,000 attendees in 2012, more than 81,000 (68 percent) came from outside the county.

“That’s pretty significant,” Williams said. “The whole county’s population is only 63,000.”

In addition to the week-long fair, in August, the site hosts several other events such as large antiques shows, auctions, an antique tractor show and the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival in October. Together, these activities drew another 15,000 people, of which 80 percent came from outside the county, which boosts sales and employment rolls.

“We get calls from convenience stores who want to know when we’re having events at the fairgrounds because they have to put extra people on,” said Mark St. Jacques, fairgrounds manager.

St. Jacques is also past president of the New York State Association of Agricultural Fairs, which sponsored the new study. The association held its annual statewide meeting Jan. 18-21 in Rochester.

“The idea is to make elected officials aware of the impact these fairs have on communities, which could help with funding and obtaining grants,” he said.

Erie County is by far the state’s largest county fair with more than 1 million visitors who generated $75.1 million in sales and $3.3 million in tax revenue. Directly and indirectly, it also supports 1,725 jobs.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Afton Fair, in Chenango County, drew fewer than 5,000 people with $368,664 in sales and a $16,261 tax impact.

Washington County’s record 2012 attendance marked the second time in three years that a new standard has been set. The fair might have broken a record in 2011, too, if one whole day hadn’t been canceled by Hurricane Irene, Williams said.

“That’s a sign of people looking to get back to family entertainment on a budget,” she said.

To view the report go to:

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