Local Fair faring well
All those Quebecers who love to go to summer agricultural fairs, and there are thousands and thousands of us, should count their lucky stars that our fairs are well-attended and holding their own financially, unlike the situation south of the border. In a very recent article published in a Montreal English language daily, it was reported that attendance at county fairs in Illinois had dropped by about a third between 2000 and 2013, also reporting that the 158 year-old Macon County Fair was “broke” and had been cancelled altogether.
This summer’s edition of the Ayer’s Cliff Fair had great weather and great attendance to go along with it; the barns were full of animals and the grandstands were full of people. The Sponsorship Program was initiated just a few years ago to help ensure the continued success of the Ayer’s Cliff Fair, and it seems to be doing just that. “The Fair Board is a non-profit so our goal has always been to break even or make just a little money, but, more importantly, to keep it an affordable event for everyone. A few years ago we decided it would be good to partner with businesses to be able to provide an even better event that was still very affordable,” explained Angus MacKinnon, the director on the Fair Board responsible for the program.
Although private individuals can also take part in the sponsorship program, it is a program
aimed at local businesses involved in the agricultural field and those that benefit from the annual event that attracts thousands to the area. “We go to agricultural businesses first: they go to the fair and most of their clients go as well. For example, the Coaticook coop is a farmer’s coop and it has a role in the community. We want the businesses to feel attached to the event because, if the fair profits, then businesses profit, too.”
“When we came up with the Sponsorship Program, and provided all the details, most of the comments from the businesses were positive. I found that most businesses were supportive and happy to do so,” added Mr. MacKinnon.
The businesses are not just asked for money. Rather, amounts are suggested and the potential sponsors are told what their money will be used for and what the advantages, mostly good publicity and visibility, will be to them. The Everest Equipment Company, of Ayer’s Cliff, is one of the local companies that has come on board the program, sponsoring the stage of the Grandstand. “Having the Sponsorship Program has helped to keep the ticket prices low. We want a family of four or six to be able to go to the fair; we want it to remain accessible to the public. We’re not there to make money from people, but to render a service to the community, provide an event where people can gather and fraternize. And the public has responded positively, coming out to the fair in large numbers. There was a really good feeling on the fairgrounds during this summer’s fair,” concluded Mr. MacKinnon.