Windsor Fair stops shy of 40-year mark in Springfield
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | March 11,2013
Competitors take part in a pony pulling event at the 2011 Windsor County Agricultural Fair.
SPRINGFIELD — A Springfield summertime tradition is coming to a close just shy of its 40th anniversary.
The Windsor County Agricultural Fair will not take place in July due to budget constraints, declining visitors and fewer volunteers to organize the event, organizers said. According to WCAF President Eric Johnson, last year’s fair barely broke even and keeping up with the costs to have the event became difficult.
Johnson said WCAF was at a disadvantage because it did not qualify for state funding. The state offers financial assistance to fairs but only to those that run from Friday to Sunday.
The Windsor County Fair is on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s tough to run a three-day fair because it starts on Fridays and most volunteers work on those days,” Johnson said. “Even for a weekend fair, setups began on the Wednesday before the fair and it was still a lot of work just to get it up and ready for Saturday. We didn’t want to go to the three-day fair.”
Johnson said they work on a $25,000 budget and rely on up to 20 volunteers, 20 vendors and 35 exhibitors every year. Sponsors and visitors make up a major portion of their annual revenue.
According to Johnson, it takes up to 4,000 visitors each year just to break even, but attendance decreased for the last three years and there were fewer than 2,000 people at last year’s fair.
Despite a declining number of visitors, organizers kept going because a local organization supported them. The Green Mountain 4-H Club of Springfield has been a major presence for years, Johnson said, but showcasing local agricultural organizations could only bring in so much revenue.
Finding effective means to attract more visitors who were willing to spend money was their main challenge.
“That’s tough to do,” Johnson said. “It may have to be a new venue or location or partnering with a new organization and get other shows involved.”
The Windsor County Agriculture Organization, the nonprofit arm of Windsor County Agricultural Fair, will look at their options at an upcoming meeting. Johnson also heard that Vermont fairs are experiencing a downturn in visitors, which may also be attributed to struggling local economies.
Despite falling short of its 40th anniversary in Springfield, WCAF has been held at several locations over the last 100 years. According to their website, WCAF has also been held at the Billings Farm in Woodstock, the Hartland Fairgrounds, the Vermont State Farm in Windsor, and Ascutney ski area.