Nov. 17, 2008
Councilmembers call for task force to find ways to sustain the King County Fair, should it be saved in 2009 budget
10-member panel would explore ways to boost attendance and revenues and make it more self-sustaining
While the fate of taxpayer support for the King County Fair hangs in the balance, members of the Metropolitan King County Council today took a step to build a sustainable future for the Fair beyond next year should the Council’s budget committee find a way to keep it alive in the 2009 budget.
The three members today introduced a motion calling on the County Executive to create a task force to find ways to boost attendance and revenues for the 145-year-old King County Fair, which had its $318,000 subsidy from county taxpayers cut from the Executive’s 2009 budget proposal, as a result of declining attendance and a projected $93 million deficit in the County general fund.
“We will engage local stakeholders, community leaders and fair experts to revive the fair,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, whose district includes the Expo Center. “With the right people at the table, I’m confident that we can develop a plan to revitalize this cherished event.”
“For more than a century, the King County Fair has been a celebration of our agrarian roots, a showcase of the agricultural products, practices, and people that are vital to our region’s economy,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, who represents the unincorporated areas west of Enumclaw. “As we work to secure funding for next year, this task force will help explore new partnerships to ensure the Fair is around for another hundred years.”
“King County residents have been very vocal throughout the budget process, telling us that the King County Fair is important to the fabric of our community and our agricultural heritage,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the 2009 Budget Review and Adoption Committee. “This task force will enable us to harness that community energy into constructive ideas for keeping the fair operating successfully in King County for many years to come.”
The motion introduced today by Councilmembers calls on the Executive to form a 10-member panel to analyze current fair operations and explore ways to attract the exhibits, programs and entertainment that would increase attendance and revenue at the fair. The members of the panel would include representatives from:
• Future Farmers of America;
• WSU King County Cooperative Extension;
• Washington state Fair Association;
• The County Council and County Executive.
The motion calls on the Executive to use the recommendations presented by the task force to develop a recovery plan for the fair, and to present the plan to the Council by August 1, 2009.
The King County Fair is the oldest county fair west of the Mississippi and a traditional celebration of King County's agricultural heritage. It has been a regional draw for organizations such as 4-H, the Future Farmers of America and the equestrian community. But attendance and revenue for the event at the Enumclaw Expo Center has declined in the last decade, leading to elimination of its taxpayer support in the Executive’s proposed 2009 King County Budget.
The County Council’s budget committee has heard from scores of citizens at public hearings over the past several weeks who have called for restoration of funding for the Fair. The Council is set to adopt a final 2009 budget on Monday, November 24.