Theme sought for 2018 fair

In an effort to boost community involvement, the public is invited to help pick the theme for the 2018 Mother Lode Fair, which will be held July 5 through 8.

The person who suggests the winning theme will receive a ticket package for the 2018 fair and recognition on social media.

A winner will be selected by the fair’s Board of Directors at its meeting in November.

This year’s theme was “Meet Me @ The Fair” to signify the event’s transition into the digital age, while the theme in 2016 celebrated the area’s Gold Rush roots.

Submissions may be sent via direct message on social media through @motherlodefair, email at info@mlfair.com, standard mail to the fair’s admissions office at 220 Southgate Drive, Sonora, CA, 95370, or hand delivery the office.

Include name and phone number with submission.

New events, reduced expenses, and some unexpected revenues have created one of the largest budget surpluses for the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in years.

Total revenue collected by the fairgrounds exceeded expenditures by about $165,590 through Aug. 31, roughly $115,000 more than anticipated at this point in the year when the annual budget was approved the Board of Directors in late 2016.

“There’s not one thing to pinpoint, it’s just that they’re having a good year and doing a great job at watching their expenses,” said Ken Alstott, chief executive officer of the state 29th District Agricultural Association, Mother Lode Fair.

The fair’s total revenues through August were $400,104, which includes $45,828 from the state in June, while expenses through the same period were about $234,513.

When the 2017 budget was approved, the total revenues anticipated through Dec. 31 were $418,031 and total expenses were $369,300. The fair spent more than it collected in revenue for the past six out of seven years.

“The reason it happened is because they ran a good, conservative budget for 2017,” Alstott said. “Part of that was cutting operating expenses through full-time employees, but there was also some additional revenue brought in.”

The fair operated without a paid CEO from August through March following the departure of Stacey Dodge last year. It also reduced the full-time maintenance manager to part-time after the retirement of the person who previously filled the role.

Alstott was hired by the board in March to serve as part-time CEO at a salary not to exceed $24,200 through the end of the year. The board recently extended his contract through 2018.

One significant unexpected source of additional revenue this year was roughly $40,000 from the American Red Cross to operate an evacuation shelter for people fleeing from the 81,000-acre Detwiler Fire in Mariposa County that started in July.

The past weekend’s Unruly Country Brew N Que Festival also provided the fairgrounds with about $12,000 in additional revenue that wasn’t anticipated at the beginning of the year, Alstott said.

Revenue from alcohol sales at the event have yet to be tallied, though the fairgrounds is set to receive 20 percent of the total profits.

Other new events this year that benefitted the fairgrounds included Ohana Comic Con in May that’s set to return on Nov. 19 and a mixed martial arts cage fighting event scheduled for Nov. 18.

That’s in addition to popular returning events like the Celtic Faire in March, the upcoming All Hallows Fantasy Faire on Oct. 28 and 29, and the Christmas Craft Festival from Nov. 21 through 26.

Alstott said the strong lineup of upcoming events coupled with the fact that the fairgrounds managed to pull a profit through the last four months of 2016 gives him hope for a much more profitable year.

“I feel really comfortable looking at this and knowing those stable events are coming up,” Alstott said.

Extra money leftover at the end of the year can be included in next year’s budget to pay for much-needed maintenance and building repairs, among other uses.

The fairgrounds, like many others in California, has struggled to get on solid financial footing since the state slashed funding for county fairs in 2010 while reeling from the impacts from the 2008 recession.

State funding previously accounted for roughly one-third of the fair’s annual budget, while the $45,828 received this year and in 2016 accounts for only about one-tenth.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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