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Fair brings financial impact

PROCTORVILLE — Next Saturday marks the beginning of the biggest event in Proctorville, the annual Lawrence County Fair.

And it is an eight-day economic boon for various groups and businesses.

For the Lawrence County Agricultural Society, it’s the only source of money to keep the fair running.

And there is money that comes from people visiting Lawrence County.

“It helps 4-H a lot,” said Lawrence County Commissioner Doug Malone. “But the fair brings in a lot of people from Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio. It definitely brings a lot of money into all our businesses in that area with people buying gas or whatever.”

Doug Clark, the president of the Lawrence County Agricultural Society, the group that puts on the fair every year, estimates about 6,000 people a day will pass through the gates.

Rainy day blues

“As long as it doesn’t rain, we’re good,” Malone said. “Seems like in July we get two or three good rains, but if it is nice, there is a pretty good crowd.”

Clark is hoping for a nice, dry week at the fair. He said the demolition derbies and the musical acts draw big numbers of people especially if the weather is nice. He said last year, Tracy Byrd drew a good crowd.

“He played between three storms on Friday night,” Clark said. “The grandstand was full and people were sitting there in the storm watching him.”

He expects new artist Kelly Pickler to draw even more.

“If it’s a nice evening it will be standing room only,” he said.

Pickler was the sixth-place finalist in the 2006 season of “American Idol” and one of Simon Cowell’s favorite singers. Her country album “Small Town Girl” was released last fall and went No. 1 on the country charts and No. 9 on the Billboard charts.

“I think she is going to be the highlight of the fair this year,” Clark said.

And Malone points out that the entertainment is a huge draw for bringing people from all over the Tri-State.

He says the demolition derby on Monday and Wednesday are always a crowd favorite.

“And this year they are having Kelly Pickler and that will be huge,” Malone said.

And if it rains, it could be rough for the agricultural society.

In 2003, the society paid out about $225,000.

“If we have a bad fair week, we lose our tails,” Clark said. “Musical acts like Kelly Pickler get paid regardless of whether they play or not.”

Clark said they had a fair a couple of years ago when it rained the whole week.

“Luckily we had enough from the previous year where we could pay our bills,” he said. “We try to every year to put money back in the rainy day fund.”

Helping the businesses

The fair has about 120 campers who live at the fair for the week. That means 120 people who need everything from fuel to food to toiletries.

“I think that’s a big boost to the local stores,” Clark said. “The gas station across the road, I constantly see people there getting gasoline, getting a soda or whatever. It’s crowded with fairgoers and carnival people. It’s got to be a boost.”

While it may help some businesses, it doesn’t help the Foodfair grocery store across State Route 7.

Don Plybon, the manager of the grocery store, said they have a lot of fair vendors coming over to get breakfast and supplies. It is countered by a lot of people trying to avoid the fair traffic.

“A lot of people, quite frankly, avoid the area during the fair,” he said. He estimates the store sales are down by 7 or 8 percent during the week.

In the past that was because fairgoers took over the parking lot.

“We were practically run out of business,” he said. “We might have well closed.”

That was solved by hiring a deputy to watch the lot.

But Plybon said he doesn’t have any problem with the fair people.

“They do all their business with us,” he said. “And we donate the lower part to the fire department so they can serve handicapped people and others.”

He added that he does enjoy fair time.

“All in all, business is down a little bit that week, but it is a bright spot on the calendar for the area and the community. It’s an exciting time.”

Sponsors

Clark said company sponsors help bring in the popular events like Pickler, the bull riding event and the thrill ride show.

“We have some really good corporate sponsorship,” he said. “Without them we couldn’t have anything like this.”

Malone said he thinks the fair tends to bring people back to Lawrence County even after the event.

“They are going to come back, we have a lot of restaurants to attract them back,” he said. “There are things they’ll see in Lawrence County that will bring them back.”