Boone County Commission starts search for new fairground management

Friday, August 19, 2011 | 8:57 p.m. CDT; updated 12:00 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 1, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Boone County Commission is relieving the Boone County Fair Board of its duties of managing the year-round operations of the Boone County Fairgrounds.

The commission also is coordinating the search for new management, said Skip Elkin, northern district commissioner of the Boone County Commission.

George Harris, the current manager of the fairgrounds, is stepping down Oct. 1, so a new management structure needs to be in place by then, Elkin said.

There are two options for the county commission:

  • It can hire a manager who would handle the day-to-day operations of the fairgrounds and be considered a county employee.
  • It  can enter into a contract with an independent management firm.

The commission is going to simultaneously put out a job posting for a manager position and a request for a proposal for a consultant or management organization, Elkin said.

The fair board will only manage the grounds during the county fair, and it has offered its assistance for other small events.

“We’re a volunteer board, and we’ve been stretched pretty thin to manage it,” said Harold Cunningham, president of the Boone County Fair Board. “The county government has the resources to take care of it and manage this better than probably we do.”

Cunningham said he thinks people might notice a gradual change as a result of the management shift, such as an increase in the price of events at the fairgrounds.

Elkin said the county commission’s goal during the next 12 to 18 months is to get a grasp on expenditures and revenues of the fairgrounds and make sure events held there generate enough revenue to support their costs.

“Prices may go up, they may not,” Elkin said.

While the fairgrounds themselves don’t bring in a lot of money, Elkin said people who attend events there end up spending millions of dollars in Columbia at restaurants, hotels and shops.

“It’s an economic hub for the community,” he said.

Ultimately, Cunningham said he thinks this transition is the best option for the community.

“The fair board is eager for this next step, and we all feel it’s a step in the right direction," he said.

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Steve Spellman August 25, 2011 | 8:56 p.m.

"Cunningham said he thinks people might notice a gradual change as a result of the management shift, such as an increase in the price of events at the fairgrounds."

Amen to that! What is missing from ANY enterprise that has near full occupancy, but is still losing money? Either expenses are too great, &/or prices are too low.

In the discussion about a fairgrounds sales tax to raise revenue, I wondered why I saw nobody suggest instead just charging people more to get in? It would be a lot more straight-forward than administering a sales levy internally there. Kudos to the County Commission for finally doing something about the problems there.

Also ask the fairgrounds how much they charge for parking, booth space, RV hookups?

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