The 2018 Wyoming State Fair will be only four days long, half of the eight days it has been for more than two decades. That agonizing decision was made by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and state fair leaders based on available revenue in the current budget after severe funding cuts were made by the legislature a year ago. As frustrated and disappointed as we are about that, not much can change it at this point.
But the 2018 fair schedule, as compressed and tweaked as it will be, is not set in stone going forward. In fact, the future for the State Fair looks brighter than it has for a long time, thanks to Sen. Brian Boner (R-Converse) and his colleagues in the recent legislative session.
Boner and others helped shepherd through some much-needed changes to the fair operation, starting at the top. An appointed fair board representing all corners the state will oversee the WSF beginning in September, so their first foray into running a Wyoming State Fair will be 2019 and they will have plenty of time to re-adjust the schedule and look for solutions to increase attendance, cut costs and increase revenue. Hopefully, they will be more amenable to new, creative ideas than the fair administration has in the past.
Adding to the optimism, the legislature nearly restored the fair’s budget for the next two years after the heavy-handed cuts made in 2017. While that doesn’t have much impact on the 2018 fair because the money won’t be available until after July 1, it does bode well for 2019-2020 fairs.
As for 2018, we just will have to wait to see how the shortened, compressed schedule will impact vendors, the livestock, other shows and overall attendance. Some have suggested it might be a good move because it will cut operational costs and may not hurt attendance as much as others fear. We are a little more pessimistic about attendance, especially if the vendors see a short window to recoup their costs of coming here as a losing proposition and opt to stay home or go elsewhere.
Let’s hope the optimists are right and we are wrong.