Jefferson County's return to a free fair had a surprising outcome: the fair increased its profit.
In presenting the information to the Jefferson County Commission earlier this month, Sandy Forman, fairgrounds coordinator, directed their attention to the "most important line."
After expenses, the 2012 free fair netted $13,956 this year -- up from $1,184 in 2011, and $7,273 in 2010, but down from the $16,579 profit in 2009.
Because no one was collecting the former $6 admission fee, Forman can only estimate that the fair had between 19,000 and 20,000 attendees -- on par with the last few years. A total of 19,056 attended in 2011; 19,160 in 2010; and 20,284 in 2009.
"We cut a lot of expenses," said Forman, whose entertainment budget dropped from $29,750 in 2009, when the headliner was country singer Chuck Wicks, to this year, when the fair board enlisted area talent for the entertainment.
"This year's fair went really smoothly," she said. "It was almost scary smooth."
The rodeo, which cost $6 ahead of time or $7 at the gate, was as busy as usual, and brought in $10,106. The Madras High School baseball program collected money at the entrances to the arena.
"It worked really well," said Forman.
Vendors were pleased with the increased business. Next year, she said, the beer garden, which closed at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday of fair week, will remain open to 1:30 a.m.
The County Buildings and Grounds Department, which is now in charge of maintenance at the fairgrounds, was very helpful throughout the fair, Forman noted.
"With Buildings and Grounds there, set-up was phenomenal," she said. "Tuesday, after the fair, we were completely cleaned up. That's never happened before. It usually takes two weeks."