Funding Jeopardizes State Fair, Organizers Say

Funding Jeopardizes State Fair, Organizers Say

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Without a cash infusion of $200,000 soon, the 2004 Utah State Fair will be in jeopardy, legislators were told.

"The time's come when you have to decide whether you want the fair or not," Fairpark Director Donna Dahl told the state Legislative Management Committee this week. "Is the fair worth keeping?"

In 1995, lawmakers privatized the fair, cutting most of its ties to state government. The fair was supposed to produce enough revenue to pay for itself, with the state providing a small administrative budget.

The fair draws 300 to 400 vendors each year and about 300,000 fairgoers. In a normal year, the fair could eke by, Dahl said.

But rainy days during the 2002 fair, the bad economy and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have left the organization strapped. Flea market and Western dance tenants have left. The Fairpark's $600,000 rainy day fund is gone. Meantime, lawmakers cut $200,000 from Dahl's budget during the 2003 session.

Fair organizers need more money before next year's legislative session to negotiate contracts for the 2004 fair.

"We're totally out of money," Dahl said. "We're going to be in a critical stage next year."

"If it's that hard to sell, you wonder," said Sen. President Al Mansell, R-Sandy.

The Natural Resources and Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will consider Dahl's request at a meeting next month.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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