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Finances, construction and entertainment focus of fair board meeting
Fair

More than seven months from the 2020 Cumming Country Fair & Festival, organizers are already planning how to top 2019.

On Monday evening, the Cumming Country Fair & Festival Advisory Board met at Cumming City Hall to looking at what worked last year, what could be improved and plans for this year’s fair, which will be held Oct. 8-18.

Record-breaking

Fairgrounds Administrator Tracy Helms said the 2019 edition of the fair was a big success, bringing in record amounts of visitors (227,000) and gross revenue ($1.3 million) despite the fair being impacted by rainy weather its last day, typically one of the busiest during the event.

"We had four record days in ’19 compared to three in ’18,” Helms said. “On that last Sunday … we did about 50% of what we usually do on Sunday, which if you compare to the first Sunday, cost us probably $50,000-$60,000, but nothing we can do about it.”

Helms said the three main revenue sources – gate, parking and midway – brought in $881,405, down from $896,410 the previous year, sponsorships were up and expenses were down.

Mayor Troy Brumbalow said while the fair was a success, the fairgrounds lost about $116,731 in total in 2019.

“Just to staff it for the year is $742,000, so we’re trying to look at it as a business, not just the fair. It’s year-round,” he said.

One possible way to address that was recently approved, as the Cumming City Council voted to remove the $5 fee at the Cumming Fairgrounds parking lot and to increase admission price from $7 to $10. Helms previously said the change could net $50,000-$100,000.

City bridge

Bridge and parking

The largest addition to the fairground in 2019 was a new bridge connecting the fairgrounds with a parking lot over Castleberry Road, which Helms said was heavily used by visitors.

“The bridge, from our vantage point, was fantastic,” Helms said. “The lines were expedited, the traffic flow on Castleberry Road was expedited, you didn’t have to wait on a crosswalk. The new ticket booths allowed us to have three-to-four windows open at all times at Gate C, which helped getting folks in.”

While feedback was generally positive, officials said they were aware of complaints for those who use handicap parking and said the 

was difficult to make it up. Helms said the bridge was compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and more handicap parking had been added.

To help with those issues, the city is considering offering a different spot for handicap parking with a shuttle to the fairgrounds.

Staying entertained

Of course, the main draw to the fair are the acts, foods, rides, musical performances and other fun activities going on.

In 2019, the fair’s musical acts were Colt Ford and the Roots and Boots Tour with Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kershaw and Collin Raye. Helms said though the fair had three nights of music in the past, having two meant organizers could go after bigger names.

“I think it’s been a win-win all across the board, and I haven’t heard any pushback on that at all,” he said.

Helms said numbers for the midway were also up in 2019.

Plans could also change to include another popular offering at the fair last year, the Cumming Scare Fair.

In 2019, the Scare Fair was held in the weeks after the fair, and organizers had to build sets and train actors at the fairgrounds before the fair before moving everything out and back before their own event.

Officials said there are talks of holding the Scare Fair this year during the fair, which would involve moving the fair’s petting zoo to another site since they use the same barn, though nothing has been finalized. Brumbalow said the haunt would have its own separate admission fee, similar to rides.

“We’ve got to make sure that they can commit to having that thing open every day, not just the weekends,” Brumbalow said. “Obviously, you’re not going to be running the haunt at 2 in the afternoon, but you’ve got to be able to do it every day because every bit is volunteers.”