County fair changes are a bitter pill for some groups

Third grade students from Southside school follow their leader as they walk from one exhibit to another during the Farm Day at Bolado Park.

Newly minted county fair CEO Donnette Silva Carter believes the organization has to change its ways in order to sustain itself in the long term.
That’s been a tough pill to swallow for San Benito County nonprofit organizations that have long depended on their work at the fair and Bolado Park for consistently healthy revenue streams. With the state gradually, and now fully, cutting off its nearly $400,000 annual allocation to the county fair, officials with the 33rd Agricultural District overseeing the grounds have taken steps to solidify fee structures and revenue agreements.
Those adjustments have focused on setting more consistent fees and revenue splits with nonprofits and other groups using the Tres Pinos area property. One fee example is the minimum $5,000 price to rent the entire Bolado Park facility for a day, Carter said, while there are many variables in a given rental such as the expanse of the property used, which rooms are reserved, whether RVs are involved and insurance considerations.
Some financial arrangements with participating groups have changed in recent months, and some set fees weren’t being charged to the full extent in some cases, indicated Carter, who succeeded longtime fair CEO Kelley Ferreira.
Carter said the fair can’t afford to keep giving deep discounts to certain groups.
“Maybe discounts were too steep,” Carter said, also noting how certain charges at Bolado haven’t been raised for years.
She said the fair is looking at ways to partner with nonprofits on sponsorship agreements to help offset some costs.
Those numbers, however, aren’t necessarily adding up so pleasantly for some local residents such as Bruce Beats, who’s active with the Hollister Rotary Club.
Beats said “it’s all pretty new” in regard to the changes and said Rotary members are working to prepare for their concession sales during the June rodeo at Bolado Park. Rotary uses money raised at such events by donating to other nonprofits and giving out scholarships.
“You’ve got more entities involved in this thing,” Beats said. “It seems to be way more cumbersome than having the fair board run things.”
Beats, however, acknowledged that fair leadership has to run events “more like a business” because “money’s tight.” He said Rotary revenue is “down some” in recent years due to such changes.
“They’re looking at every angle out there now and how to make it more efficient and how to make it pay for itself,” Beats said.
At the same time, fair leadership is taking steps to upgrade the facilities, largely with Heritage Foundation money, and work to further promote Bolado Park’s slate of old California offerings.
Last weekend, Bolado hosted the traveling blogger duo, “The Cooking Ladies,” here on a promotional tour organized by the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau. Carter also mentioned trying to promote Bolado’s vicinity “on the road to” Pinnacles National Park.
“It’s very exciting to see the changes that are happening,” she said.

Leave your comments