Welcoming news Friday that the Tennessee State Fair Association has been awarded the right to operate the State Fair for a five year term, John Rose, TSFA chairman, said the citizen volunteer, non profit group he leads “now has an opportunity to formulate and execute plans for a long term credible and sustainable State Fair in which all Tennesseans can participate and enjoy.”
TSFA was selected by the Tennessee State Fair Commission to operate the State Fair for the next five years following a process in which a committee of the commission evaluated and scored applicants seeking management rights to the Fair. By state statute only Tennessee non profit organizations were allowed to compete in the process.
Applicants seeking the favor of the selection committee were judged and scored on a plethora of topics including strength of organization, proven abilities, resources available, and assets with respect to planning and vision.
Rose said the new process set up by the commission earlier this year to select a State Fair operator is fair and provides “considerable substance” to help improve the annual event that has been held at the same site in Nashville for more than 100 years.
Specifically, Rose said his organization, which has produced the Fair for the past three years, has been “handcuffed so-to-speak” from one year to the next because “we didn’t know if we would be the management group for the succeeding year. Because of this we were restricted on what plans we might make, on what vision we might have for future Fairs, and perhaps equally as important on what commitments we might make knowing that we were only ensured to be the State Fair management group for one year at a time.”
Rose explained that producing the Fair is like a multi year job. He said plans for each year’s fair need to begin years in advance.
“These plans in the past have been tentative however because we never knew for sure that we would be the State Fair manager the next year. Now that we have the assurance for a longer term we can create a strategy for a better State Fair accordingly,” he said.
Under the management of TSFA the State Fair has realized a number of improvements and recently was presented seven awards, including two first place awards pertaining to Fair exhibits, by the International Association of Fairs and Expositions at that group’s annual convention in Las Vegas.
And despite what Rose described as “three rain out days” this year, the Fair managed a modest increase in attendance.
“We’re not at all where we want to be with regard to making our State Fair the best it can be but I can say with confidence that following the decision of the State Fair Commission we are in a much better position to move forward.
“We look forward to continuing the Fair’s focus on education, to making it an all inclusive Fair for all Tennesseans, and to ensuring that it is a family event, presented in a safe and friendly environment,” Rose said.
Now that TSFA has gotten the okay from the State Fair Association to operate the Fair the next step in the process is to negotiate with the Metro Fair Board an equitable agreement for use of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Last year TSFA paid Metro $173,565.75 for its occupation of the site during the 10 day event.
Renting the Fairgrounds is the largest expense paid by the TSFA. Other major costs associated with producing the Fair annually include advertising, Fair entertainment, security, and premiums for Fair competitions. Expenses for the 2013 State Fair totaled almost $1 million leaving an ending surplus of less than $10,000.