The Wyoming State Fair Continues to Grow
Updated: Oct 21
The Wyoming State Fair is building momentum as the organization reaches new heights. The 2023 fair was one for the record books and the rodeo was just recognized as the Mountain States PRCA Circuit Small Rodeo of the Year. It has been 5 years since the legislature made significant reforms to the way the fair is organized. With the new board an unqualified success, it is time to review where we have been with an eye towards the future.
Things weren’t always this way. In fact, after several budget cuts from 2016-2018, there was talk of not putting on a fair at all. Like many state agencies, the state fair was struggling to adjust to a more austere budget after many years of surpluses and large amounts of spending. While the cuts continued after starting the new state fair board, the fortunes of the fair turned around soon after the legislature passed two bills in the 2018 Budget Session.
There was a clear need to update the fair’s organizational structure and give it the expertise it needed to succeed. By passing SF 45, the legislature created the state fair board and gave the board some updated direction, including the need to increase revenue. HB 130 established an endowment that would generate investment income to help insulate the fair from the volatility of our revenue streams.
The results have been overwhelmingly positive. Revenue has been up at the fair every year since 2019 by around 10%. This momentum continues into this year, with a 7.7% increase in total admissions revenue.
Part of the success of the fair can also be measured by how they respond to feedback. A great example of this is the ranch rodeo. I was disappointed to see the ranch rodeo not be included in the 2022 fair. Showcasing the best of the best of our agricultural industry is the whole point of the fair and the ranch rodeo is a perfect example of that spirit. After a lot of work by a dedicated group of volunteers, the rodeo came back in the 2023 fair stronger than ever, with over 700 people attending the event.
Listening and responding to legitimate feedback contributes to the buy in the fair needs from the community. Another example of building a meaningful relationship with the local community is building a strong volunteer program. This has started strong with three volunteer days spent cleaning the fairgrounds also had this effect. Years of minor deferred maintenance tasks were cleared by a group of dedicated volunteers.
The fair is also aggressively pursuing improvements in infrastructure at the fairgrounds. They are already halfway through the 2020 strategic plan. Efforts so far have included updating current buildings and tearing down old one that are beyond repair. Moving forward, we have a chance to double down on the current success by making improvements that will allow for year round equine events and even more revenue generation.
The future of the fair is bright. With the proper investment and continued analysis of way to better support the board, we can take an important step towards ensuring the fair is self-sustaining. This division is a textbook example of how prudent policy changes can ensure state government truly does more with less.