Rochester Fair comes to end after 141 years
ROCHESTER — The Rochester Fair is coming to an end due to financial hardship.
A press conference was held by the Rochester Fair board of directors President Norm Vetter where he cited financial constraints, attendance and improvements that need to be done on the grounds.
"We are not going to be able to hold the Rochester Fair as you've seen it in the past 100 years," Vetter told a group of reporters Friday.
The board reviewed the fair's financials and saw that things weren't looking too good nearly two years ago, noting a drop in profits and low attendance.
Vetter said on Friday that part of the decline in attendance could be attributed to the poor conditions of some of the buildings on the grounds.
"I think the loss of the agricultural displays at the fair has been a big loss for a lot of folks," Vetter said. "The barns are not safe and folks don't want to bring their animals there."
Another factor is the change in the family dynamic.
"I think all fairs after talking to different folks in the vendor industry, carnivals, all the fairs attendances are down," Vetter said. "I think it's a sign of the times. Young folks now, they're home doing their DVDs, and games and all that stuff on their phones. I don't think you see the family unit even as it was 10 years ago."
It's a sentiment that board Treasurer Steve Beaudion echoed.
"When I was young, it was all families that went to the fair. Now you go and you see the teenagers there without their parents," Beaudion said. "Maybe the parents are there but they're not with their kids so much so there is a decline."
However, it wasn't until the past few months when closing the fair was seriously considered as an option.
According to Vetter, the board owes $76,473 to local creditors, the city of Rochester and local vendors, which would have to be paid off before the fair could open again and there is no money for it.
They have also had to pay off IRS bills that they were unaware of, which has made it hard on the board financially.
They also owe another $160,845 to board members who have lent money to keep the fair afloat the past few years.
"If we hadn't stepped up and donated money to the fair, it would have closed years ago," Beaudion said.
There is also a forbearance agreement of $112,000 due in September with Holy Rosary Credit Union.
The Rochester Fair board of directors would have to come up with $349,799 by September, before the fair could open again. Another $400,000 is also still owned on a mortgage.
The brings the total debt to nearly $800,000. The majority of the board agreed Thursday night to not open the fair this year due to their financial debt.
Other events being on the fairgrounds through July will be held as scheduled, but after that the board will need to work details out for future events.
"I think it's a sad day for Rochester," Vetter said. "My wife grew up in this town and there are a lot of local people that have really been supportive of the fair over the years."
It's been a family tradition for Beaudoin as well.
"It's pretty sad. My dad, until he passed in '09, was at the fair literally every day of the fair when it was open," Beaudoin said. "He never missed a day. Even if it was raining, he'd go."
Despite the original Rochester Fair not returning this fall, the board of directors hopes that someday in the future, another fair can be held again on the fairgrounds.