Ag board shifts alcohol sales to foundation funding county fairgrounds

The ferris wheel is silhouetted by the setting sun Saturday at the fair.

The 33rd Agricultural District board voted this month to shift rights for Bolado Park alcohol sales to the San Benito Heritage Foundation – and away from other nonprofits previously selling at the fair and other events – because of state budget cuts and a need to raise more revenue.
The Heritage Foundation is the board’s nonprofit arm and was created to support the district and Bolado Park Fairgrounds.
“It’s pretty much becoming standard practice for fairs to run alcohol sales through their foundations,” said Kelley Ferreira, the county fair manager.
He said Monterey County and others nearby are now doing the same thing, mostly due to the budget cuts. The foundation “is very open to working with nonprofits” and there will be opportunities to do so, Ferreira said.
The decision was a result of fairs statewide gradually losing more state funds starting in August 2011, Ferreira said. He said the board has had to eliminate part-time labor and cut staff hours, in addition to other changes.
The new rules will not apply to this year’s event but will affect future county fairs.
Local nonprofits estimate that the decision, made Sept. 10 by the fair board, will force them to make deep cuts into annual budgets and could impact whether money will be available for student scholarships.
“All the money we make at that event (the county fair) goes straight to the local community,” said Bryan Yamaoka, representing the Rotary Club.
He estimated the decision would cut into more than $15,000 that Rotary generates annually at the San Benito County Saddle Horse Show & Rodeo held at Bolado Park.
Representatives of the fair board, however, said that because of state budget cuts and other fiscal setbacks, the fair has lost $160,000 since 2011. The board did receive $40,000 this year from the state, but does not expect to see that money again next year.
The board also withdrew $26,000 from the district’s reserve funds, leaving a balance of just $76,000.
“The Board is aware that Bolado Park plays an extremely important role in our community,” said Board Member Paul Rovella in an email to the Free Lance.
He said that the board’s decision was “difficult” – but that not making it would have meant the potential loss of Bolado Park, the fair and the Saddle Horse Show & Rodeo.
He said most of the estimated $400,000 in sales the fair generates annually already goes to education funds. Additionally, he said, the Heritage Foundation could request the use of outside nonprofits to help provide staff to exhibits at the fair, in exchange for financial considerations.
“The Board has a responsibility to act in the best interests of Bolado Park and the San Benito County Fair,” Rovella said. “We have taken substantial effort to replace that lost funding” by cutting costs and increasing revenue.

Leave your comments