Over the past five years, the Genesee County Fair has gone from a local event that was barely hanging on, to one that is now the envy of many other rural counties around the state, according to a report delivered by Ag Society President Norm Pimm to the Human Services Committee of the Genesee County Legislature.
Pimm said he recently attended an expo for county fair organizers in Rochester and Genesee County's fair was a subject of curiosity.
"There are a lot of fairs that are crying that they're going backward in attendance, so we are one of the few that is going forward, and we actually have a lot of fairs coming to us and asking what we're doing differently," Pimm said.
Last year more than 22,000 people attended the fair.
People attend, he said, because of the attractions and the animals.
Ag is a big part of every county fair, but Genesee County has been able to revitalize its ag program and last year there were more than 800 animals on show, which put the fairgrounds at capacity for farm animals.
Last year's fair included the Empire Classic sheep show, which attracted competitors from all over the state. The show gave local youngsters a chance to learn from and compete against some of the very best competitors in the Northeast.
The beef show was also a big hit and attracted two farm families that hadn't shown beef at the Genesee County Fair in 40 years. They were quite pleased with what they found at the show.
"They went to Syracuse after that and they were telling people there, 'you've got to go to Genesee County next summer. You've got to be in this show. It's awesome. and their fairgrounds look great.' "
The two families were in Ohio the following week complimenting the Genesee County fair again, he said.
"We now have two big nationally known exhibitors out talking about us," he said. "That's fantastic."
Not everything, though, is a home run. The midway -- all the rides and games -- is a fair essential, but it's also a reliable money loser.
"Our midway kills us, but you have to have one," Pimm said. "It sounds sad, but you have to have one. We had some fair board members say 'let's not have one.' You have to, so we just need to make it up somewhere else."
Part of what pays for the fair are all the other events that are hosted by the fairgrounds spring, summer and fall, from auctions and 4-H events to flea markets and horse shows.
The new horse barns, in fact, are a big attraction now and there is a horse show booked at the fairgrounds every weekend this summer.
There's also going to be a statewide high school rodeo hosted by the fairgrounds this summer; it's the first held locally. If it goes well, Genesee County could be considered to host the national high school rodeo championship.
The Genesee County Agriculture Society is on a continuous improvement project with the fairgrounds and is about to embark on a $500,000 electrical upgrade of the entire grounds. Because of the cost, it will have to be done in stages, Pimm said. A recent grant of $90,000 from the governor's office will help the society get started, he said.
The County budget earmarks $9,500 in assistance to the Ag Society.
Improvements lead to more events to host, and more events help generate the funds for more improvements. The events throughout the year help pay for the fair which, even with all its success last year, still came up short of expenses by $4,400.
"We're trying to use the grounds as much as we can so we keep the revenue coming in and we can keep investing back into the grounds," Pimm said.