Some traditions die hard, but losing money can help win converts.
In November, the state Agriculture Department decided to shorten the annual State Fair from eight days to five days. Though statewide sentiment was mixed, the measure moved forward mostly on the basis that something had to be done to plug a significant annual revenue shortfall, which this year was expected to approach $1 million, according to Agriculture Secretary Larry Gabriel. That gap is filled by state appropriations.
Fair attendance was down 25 percent this year, which officials blamed in part on hot weather and high gas prices. By moving to a five-day schedule, officials hoped to reduce fair expenditures while not cutting into attendance. Some believe it might re-energize the fair by packing more entertainment and attractions into available days.
Ironically, this move comes despite reports that regional fairs in Sioux Falls and Rapid City are doing well despite gas costs and other factors. Some have suggested that the State Fair's location in Huron lacks destination appeal—not to mention the population draw—of the state's larger cities.
—Ronald A. Wirtz