Joining what appears to be a growing trend, the Highland County Senior Fair Board has decided to sell beer at this year’s fair.
Mickey Waters, a fair board member who is in charge of the project, said the Ohio State Fair and 14 county fairs sold beer last year, and that at a meeting of fair officials this year it was projected that beer would be sold at 26 of the state’s county fairs in 2016. He noted that beer is also sold at Kings Island and the Disney parks.
“It’s just another revenue stream for fairs,” Waters said Thursday. “If people want to, they will be able to go grab a beer and watch the tractor pulls, the demolition derby or whatever. We’re not opening it up where people will be walking up and down the midway or in the barns with a beer.”
“It’s not as taboo as it used to be,” he added. “We want to be able to bring in good bands, upgrade our buildings, and do other things to make the fair as big as it used to be, but to do that we have to get some money. People think we make a lot of money at the gate, but after we pay everyone that has to be paid, we don’t make very much off the gate.”
Waters said beer at the fair will be sold in 16-ounce cans from the old Trailbreakers building near the upper entrance to the tractor pull arena. He said there will be a roped off area where people can watch events going on in the tractor pull area and enjoy a beer, but they will have to go inside the building to be served and will have to exit back through the building when they leave.
He said the beer will be sold in cans that cannot be purchased elsewhere, so people will not be able walk around the fair with a beer and claim they purchased it from the beer garden. He said that like it always has been, the crowd at the fair will be closely monitored for alcohol use.
Only beer will be sold from the beer garden – no wine or liquor. Waters said that how much a 16-ounce can will cost has not yet been determined, but it will likely be in the $3 to $4 range.
“We don’t want to make it cheap enough where people will get hammered, but we don’t want to make it too expensive and keep people out,” Waters said.
The fair board has signed a contract with Cox Concessions to handle the beer sales, and Cox will also provide the bartenders, according to Waters. He said Cox Concessions has a contract to sell beer at the state fair.
Beer will only be sold at the Highland County Fair from 4-11 p.m.
“People hear beer and think bar, but it’s not going to be a bar,” Waters said. “It’s going to be a place where people can get away for a minute, get in some air-conditioning, or watch TV or the tractor pulls and just take a break.”
While it likely won’t happen this year, Waters said the fair board has a new group to supply sound and other electronics and that they’d like to set up a closed-circuit TV in the beer garden that could show events while they’re taking place live in the Show Arena.
Waters said all the empty aluminum cans will be donated back to the 4-H kids and Junior Fair.
The board plans to try selling beer for a couple years, Waters said, and if it doesn’t make money the senior fair board will review the policy.
Waters said the fair board has a waiting list of more than 75 people wanting camping spots at the fair and to try to accommodate those people, the fair board added 52 camping spots this year. He said that brings the total to 300-plus.
“We hope we have a great fair this year and a great turnout,” Waters said. “We’re trying to break away from the same old, same old and get some new and exciting things coming in. We’re trying our best to improve the fair one step at a time.”
This year’s fair runs from Sept. 3-10.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.