To the Editor:
As we move into August, we draw closer to the state’s largest agricultural summer event, the Colorado State Fair, where families learn more about where their food comes from, the role agriculture plays in their lives and how farmers and ranchers care for livestock and land.
There have been questions as to whether the fair should move to a new location, but we are proud to call Pueblo home.
Gov. John Hickenlooper says, “Pueblo has been home to the Colorado State Fair before Colorado was even a state. It’s a long-standing summer tradition for residents and visitors alike, and Pueblo continues to be an ideal location to showcase Colorado’s agricultural heritage.”
The fairgrounds have a number of buildings on the State Historical Registry, a tremendous cultural value. Plus, moving the fair would require a tremendous financial investment to construct a facility that can handle our unique event. No other location in Colorado is equipped to handle the type of events required of a state fair.
Let’s not forget that Colorado is much more than our capital city of Denver. How can we say our mission is to support Colorado agriculture — but move out of rural Colorado? Pueblo and its surrounding communities are vital to Colorado’s agricultural stability.
The Colorado State Fair is a success on many levels. The fairgrounds facility provides nearly $34 million in economic activity to Colorado throughout the year; $29 million of that is driven by the State Fair. While there have been a number of statements about our financial shortfall, many have an incomplete picture of a complex budget. For Fiscal Year 2014, we had a loss of approximately $500,000 for the entire year (all operating revenue, expenses and government funding).
The State Fair has created economic benefit that stretches across the state. For example, the Junior Livestock Sale is instrumental in supporting the future of Colorado’s agribusiness as it demonstrates to youth the importance of raising quality livestock and the work required of those who pursue careers in agriculture. In 2014, $447,828 went directly to the JLS youth alone. In all, 31 counties have benefited from the sale in the past five years with the top five being Weld, Yuma, Logan, Pueblo and Adams. During the past 35 years, the Junior Livestock Sale has raised more than $8.7 million for those involved.
Corporate sponsorships are at an all-time high with cash sponsorships exceeding half a million dollars for the annual State Fair event and sponsorships overall exceeding $1.6 million. More than $400,000 comes from the sale of commercial exhibit space and the carnival brings another three quarters of a million dollars.
The State Fair Foundation has also been established to enhance youth programming, education and experiences at the Colorado State Fair. In 2014, the foundation raised about $300,000 in funds and in-kind donations towards those efforts and continues to grow annually.
It is our goal to promote Colorado agriculture and support Colorado youth. We consider this a fundamental goal for, not only the State Fair, but for the future of Colorado and our residents. The youth participating in 4-H and FFA are our leaders of tomorrow. We must make every effort to help create a generation that understands the need for a healthy food system. In the last five years, $4,182,337 has been paid to Colorado 4-H and FFA programs, premiums and youth. These are funds that help shape our future as an agricultural state.
As the State Fair Board of Authority, we are truly passionate about the event we help put on with the dedicated efforts of the staff and hope every Coloradan celebrates the summer and our state’s agricultural community by coming to this year’s State Fair, starting Aug. 28.
Sincerely, 2015 Colorado State Fair board members:
Arthur Bosworth II, chairman, Denver County; Mark A. Arndt, vice chairman, Weld County; Patty Shaw Castilian, secretary, Denver County; Michael Cafasso, Pueblo County; David Galli, Pueblo County; William J. Hybl, El Paso County; Lois Tochtrop, Adams County; Virginia “Ginny” Vietti, Summit County; Ronald J. Teck, Mesa County.