Fairgrounds See High Usage in 2012

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead County Fairgrounds had a banner year in 2012, with attendance up significantly from previous years and the most event days in the past five years.

According to fairgrounds manager Mark Campbell, events at the grounds were up 155 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, and event attendance increased by 147 percent in the same time period.

“We are very pleased the community is using the Fairgrounds more and the facilities are a benefit for the many varied interests reflected throughout Flathead County and the region,” Campbell wrote in an email to the Beacon.

There were a total of 571 event days catalogued by the fairgrounds department. Campbell explained that this number is calculated as the total number of days people are using the fairgrounds, including set up and the days that the actual event is taking place.

For example, a trade show might use one day to set up and three to host the show, Campbell said, totaling four catalogued event days.

Of the total event days for 2012, 365 were public events, while the remaining 206 consisted of private events. The latter category had never previously been separated in the total tally, Campbell said.

In 2011, there were 369 event days, and 2010 saw 324. There were 361 event days counted in 2009, and the fewest event days on the fairgrounds in the past five years came in 2008, with 249.

The attendance numbers from 2012 are also a good indicator of what a solid year it was for the fairgrounds, Campbell said. Last year, 194,623 people attended events there, an increase of more than 60,000 people from 2011’s 132,051.

Campbell said there are several reasons that the numbers increased last year, with the most obvious being that more groups are using the grounds to host programs. For example, in 2012, the fairgrounds were used for boxing matches, women’s expos, a child advocacy fair, a Stillwater Christian School fundraiser, and 4-H entomology classes.

Other events included meetings and trainings, Campbell said.

Another major use spike at the fairgrounds came from the Flathead County Elections Department, which took over the fairgrounds kitchen as a satellite office during the elections and as a place for mail-in ballots to be picked up or dropped off. Campbell expects this use to continue every two years.

The 2012 Northwest Montana Fair had a slightly increased attendance over 2011, with 79,954 attendees, up nearly 2 percent from the previous year.

The Rodney Atkins concert had the biggest concert audience in recent history, with 2,994 people.

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