August 2, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 31

Rain hurts gate, but fair income expected to hold steady

Rain on Friday dropped gate receipts about 8 percent overall, but income from rides and beer sales increased, and revenues from this year’s Southeast Alaska State Fair will likely match that of last year’s record event, executive director Ross Silkman said this week.

“When it’s all said and done, we’ll probably come out even with last year, which is good,” Silkman said.

Participatory events like a wearable art show and “zombie run” obstacle course proved popular, even with out-of-town visitors, he said.

“Overall, the buzz was people had a fantastic time. I think people liked the entertainment line-up and the wearable art show was a big hit. We’ve heard from people around Southeast about that. They’re thrilled this is happening at the fair,” Silkman said.

About 90 people, including 65 runners and 25 “zombies” participated in Friday’s fun run, which sent participants over jumps and crawling through mud puddles, while also attempting to elude “zombies.”

“We had (out-of-town) entertainers who heard about it take off their pants and run it in their boxer shorts. We’re excited to continue that (event) and to grow it,” Silkman said.

The timing was perfect for eight chicks that hatched in McPherson Barn during the fair. Fairgoers returned to the barn repeatedly to check on their progress, Silkman said, and to see police chief Gary Lowe shear an alpaca. “The barn continues to be a delight for people of all ages.”

Adding attractions for teen-agers and young adults will be a goal for next year, he said. “We’re looking to increase activities for that age group from about 10 to 25 that tends to just hang out. They’re too big to go in the bouncy house and how many times can they go on the Ferris wheel? It’s a very large demographic.”

Silkman said some fairgoers were concerned a paired trapeze act on Friday and Saturday evenings was too sexually suggestive, but more people enjoyed it than not, and many returned to see the aerialists perform a second time, Silkman said. “Those physical acts are always a highlight for people.”

Like Friday’s rainstorm that subsided by Saturday morning, a bear that tromped through the fairgrounds each night didn’t do much damage besides smacking around a deep fryer and knocking over a propane tank, he said.

Silkman credited businessman Doug Olerud, who donated a dump truck that allowed the fair to secure its trash each night, and Acme Transfer’s Paul Nelson, who took fair refuse at no charge. “Those are big thank-yous because that bear could have been a big problem for us.”

The number of fair exhibits dropped considerably from last year. Fair officials said last week that the summer’s first, long stretch of warm weather, that came just before the exhibit deadline, may have distracted residents who intended to enter exhibits.

Charlotte Olerud, who helped organize the first fair here at the American Legion Hall, has been to all 44 of them. She said her favorite parts of the fair are seeing what people create, so she was glad to see the wearable art show’s mussel-shell dress and was hoping to see exhibit numbers rebound next year.

“Every year people say, ‘I could do something next year,’ but the next year comes and people forget. Maybe we just need a boost” in the way of reminders, she said.

Olerud said she liked the food booths, the live animals and gate tickets that are good for all day. She credited the fair board with “coming up with new things” every year and for increasing the diversity of music acts. “I know they’re working their butts off and doing a fantastic job.”

Jerry Blood said he found enough to do with his grandchildren, who are ages 4 and 18 months. Their favorites were the Juneau Jumpers, “TAFY Stars,” a synchronized dance troupe from Juneau, plus barn animals, children’s crafts stage, sandbox and jungle gyms.

“It made it easy because there was something to do. They were happy to stay there and when they left, they were ready to go to bed. They slept for 12 hours when they got home and they’re already talking about coming back next year,” Blood said.

Exhibit winners and fair competition results will be published in next week’s CVN.