The Thurston County Fairgrounds is on shaky financial ground, threatening its very future.
Lagging attendance at the fair earlier this month means the fairground operations are entering the final months of the year about $20,000 short of projections.
The reserve fund is exhausted and dramatic changes in fairgrounds operations are being considered by county officials, everything from closing down the fair and selling the fairgrounds to leasing fairgrounds operations to a private party.
It appears the county commissioners are left with two other options to keep the fair alive. Either restore general fund money for fair operations to levels the fair hasn’t seen since 2008, or come up with new ways to generate revenue at the fairgrounds. Both options need to be fully investigated.
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Increased use of the fairgrounds should be fully investigated before the county starts making budget decisions for 2013. There must be some ways to better utilize the fairground facilities by leasing them to sponsors of community events and festivals.
The fairgrounds already have a strong connection to the growing agricultural community in South Sound. Perhaps the fairgrounds could be used to help support value-added agriculture, including the processing of food products grown and raised in Thurston County.
The commissioners are gearing up for a brainstorming session on new, revenue-generating ways to use the fairgrounds. It’s not too late to reinvent the fairgrounds.