Tillsonburg Tri-County Fair comes out ahead

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The 163rd Tillsonburg Tri-County Fair wrapped up Sunday with its biggest day in years.

"We did very well this year, even with the ups and downs," said Rosemary Dean, president of the Tillsonburg Tri-County Fair, noting that gate revenue was up from last year. "And we're going to continue to move forward.

"It was our first Comic Con, so I think that might have helped to contribute to our revenues, along with another fantastic year for our derby. Between the two, the Comic Con and the demolition derby, our Sunday gates were the highest in years.

"We thank Carrie Kowalski from Super Air Bounce Rentals, she's from here in town. She pulled us out by bringing those extra rides (inflatables) to the fair - they were a great sponsor for us. She charged us a very, very low fee (paid by the fairboard) to kind of help make up for the midway... to make a little bit more for the people because we didn't know what was coming this year with this new midway. We have no control over what they bring or what they charge."

This year the Fair did not receive a percentage of the ride income. Typically, said Dean, the Fair would receive 10-15 per cent of ride ticket sales, but because they had to scramble at the last minute to find another midway company - any ride company - they decided to give up that percentage to entice rides, which in a normal year would be Fair revenue of about $3,000.

"They were the only midway we could get," said Dean. "So all the ride ticket sales were all their profit, and people probably don't realize that. Because of all the circumstances... out of 200 (Ontario) fairs this year, 70 won't have a midway this year. We didn't want to be the 71st, and thankfully Townsend Amusements was able to accommodate us.

"Even before we opened, we knew we were getting $3,000 less revenue this year. So we had to make that up in other places. But even without that revenue, we're still ahead of the game this year."

It did rain late Saturday, and the midway closed early that night, but for the most part they had excellent weather all weekend.

The Fair's first-ever Comic Con, held inside the Kinsmen Memorial Arena, was a crowd pleaser, and judged to be about the size of London's first Comic Con.

"We were really happy," said Dean. "We were happy with the number of people that came, all the vendors that showed up, all the people that showed up as cosplay. And we are moving forward to doing another one next year. It was something different and it was something good.

"Moving forward some people have given ideas - so we are taking people's suggestions to make Comic Con better next year. And our derby. We're always open to suggestions. Even just the times of our events Thursday and Friday, we need to have more awareness of what the actual times are so people are clear on that.

"And if anybody wants to see something change at the Fair, please come volunteer and bring your ideas," said Dean, noting that Fair meetings are the first Monday of the month, expect holidays (then it's the following Monday).

After speaking to many of the vendors, Dean said they received positive feedback from the majority.

Comic Con visitors came from as far away as Windsor, London, Toronto and Ottawa.

"It drew a big range of people. So we know that the word did get out there. We've been offered a spot to go to London's Comic Con, I think it's in September, to promote the few (Tillsonburg Fair - Captain Canuck) comic books we still have. So it's another way to promote our fair in a different venue. Hopefully by September we have the date locked for our fair."

The 2018 Fair dates need to be determined in conjunction with ride companies. And even the possibility of drawing rides from two different midway companies - at the same Fair.

"In our area we want more families and children rides, obviously, but we also want more teen focused rides," said Dean. "That's one area where our midway just needed more. So we will ask if they can join up with another midway with bigger rides that would satisfy the teens in our community. That's our focus right now. We need to find two companies that will work together. And maybe continue with us - maybe a 3-5 year contract. That will be a key factor next year."

They are still targeting July for the month, said Dean, but may consider moving it to the first week of August if that's when rides are available.

"Nothing is concrete right now."

The Fair expressed its gratitude to Town Council, who arranged for the Memorial Arena ice to come out, gave them use of the arena free of charge, tables and chairs, and a small monetary donation.

"It saved a lot of money not renting the arena, so yes, we do really appreciate Town Council's support," said Dean.

"A big thank you to all the sponsors and the volunteers. We appreciate our gate people for giving their time to help us out at the Fair. Same with Southwest Fire Academy - they were our St. John Ambulance on the weekend, so we really appreciate that. The four ladies in the Homecraft Section really worked their butts off to get that section and the displays all up nicely. And Kirwin and Oatman, they're awesome... 30-plus years as a sponsor, we couldn't do it without them. And so many more." 

cabbott@postmedia.com

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