Audit: Colorado State Fair losing money hand over fist

Greg Campbell | Contributor

The Colorado State Fair — a 125-year-old annual institution of 4-H events, carnival rides and rodeos — had an operating loss of $2.8 million last year, a $400,000 increase over the previous year’s loss, according to a state audit.

Auditors also found that the fair’s liabilities were greater than its assets by more than a half million dollars and that it has lost money every year for at least the past decade.

The only thing that can make the fair survive, the audit concluded, is an infusion of state money.

“Currently, most fair revenue is generated through admissions fees, parking, food and beverage sales, concessions, commercial space rental, sponsorships and carnival ticket sales,” according to a news release from the Office of the State Auditor, which recommended the Department of Agriculture request an annual appropriation from the state legislature to keep the fair running.

Democratic Sen. Lucia Guzman told the Associated Press that it would be a worthy investment, if only to keep rural traditions alive.

“It’s beginning to have more to do with education, actually, than industry,” she said.

The auditors noted that, “Although the [State Fair] Authority received nearly $2 million in State and local contributions, the contributions were not adequate to offset the Authority’s operating loss.”

The report also noted that officials have tried to bring costs into line by reducing the number of days the fair is open and changing its ticketing system to help raise revenue.

Some lawmakers have questioned whether to continue the fair, which is held on 80 acres of land in Pueblo, or move it closer to Denver to try to increase attendance.

But one such critic, Republican Rep. Steve King, told the AP that he’s come to value the event. His said his previous opposition was a result of “not knowing the total spectrum of what our fair does for us, as far as tourism, as far as education of our kids, as far as 4-H, and so forth.”

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