The Tooele County Fair — cancelled in March, revived in April — now appears to be down for the count.
In late March, county officials announced that dire budget woes would end the August fair. By mid-April, the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce promised to put together a scaled-back version to offer the struggling community some homegrown, summertime fun and boost area businesses.
However, the chamber’s board and executive director Jared Hamner have recanted the offer, citing ”negative intents, resistance, and disparaging actions to our businesses and to the chamber.”
During meetings with Fair Board members and community members involved in past fairs, disagreements cropped up about “what we could do and how high profile the fair could be this year,” Hamner said Tuesday.
The chamber started at ground zero in terms of funding, Hamner said, noting “ we were very cost sensitive.” As the chamber mulled which events to toss, some disappointed fans began calling area businesses and disparaging them, he said.
“We said that for their well-being, we have to step aside,” Hamner said, adding the chamber regretted having to take that action. “There’s nothing better than to see kids with cotton candy all over their faces,” he said.
For more than six decades, the Tooele County Fair has drawn summer crowds to traditional junior livestock shows and 4H exhibits. It grew to include vendor booths, carnival rides, demolition derbies and big-name entertainment; last year’s event cost $193,000, said Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne.
The chamber’s “decision to back out is regrettable,” Milne said. “But I’ll have to defer to what they think is best since we’re incapable of staffing the fair.”
Tooele County Public Information Officer Wade Mathews added, “The county is in the same situation as it was when the Fair Board voted to cancel. We have no staff at Deseret Peaks [Recreation Complex, where some events were held] and no money to put into the fair.”
In early March, the county laid off 23 employees from its Parks and Recreation and Building Maintenance divisions due to budget shortfalls.
According to Mathews, the Junior Livestock show and 4H exhibits will still take place, and the demolition derby hosted by the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue could possibly still happen as well.
Suspending the fair for a year could actually prove beneficial, Milne said.
“When we had times of plenty, we could afford to do things differently,” Milne said. “Regardless of the reasons for particular parties not getting along, I’m hoping that folks will take a breather, realize they miss it, and come back with a new vigor.”