Iowa State Fair estimates it will lose $30 million in revenue this year

By: - June 12, 2020 1:17 pm

Fairgoers ride the Skyglider at the Iowa State Fair in August 2014. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The Iowa State Fair projects it will lose $30 million by not holding the annual event this year that draws travelers from around the world.

That dollar amount is based off the fair’s operating revenues for fiscal year 2018, which amounted to $29,581,713.

Adding to the pain is the lack of federal funding the fair has received to aid it through the pandemic. Mindy Williamson, marketing director for the fair, said the organization did not receive any federal aid.

But the projected revenue loss from canceling the fair is only marginally higher than if a socially distanced event was held in August instead, said Iowa State Fair CEO Gary Slater, during the board meeting on Wednesday.

Surveys issued to Iowans in May and June laid out a stark image of a more barren 2020 Iowa State Fair, even though people have steadily felt more comfortable going out.

Between May 14-18, a random sampling of Iowans were asked their likelihood of attending the Iowa State Fair.

About 71% of Iowans in Polk, Warren, Jasper, Dallas and Story counties reported were either not likely or were not planning on attending the fair at all this year. 

Outside of central Iowa, 79% of Iowans reported they were not likely to attend.

Another survey conducted in June showed more Iowans felt comfortable attending the fair than they did in the past, though a large number said they still don’t plan on attending.

Between June 3-8, about 59% of Iowans within a 50-mile radius of Des Moines said they were not likely to attend.

Slater said Wednesday the fair predicted it would lose nearly the same amount of revenue if it held a socially distanced event versus canceling it altogether.

“In the end, we hope to preserve the grand tradition of the Iowa State Fair,” Slater said. “It’s just going to take until next year to do that.”

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