Meadville Tribune

Local News

August 17, 2013

SUNDAY ISSUE: Fair entertainment

WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP — Attracting top-notch — and affordable — acts for the grandstand is the key to making the Crawford County Fair a financial success, according to the fair’s governing volunteer board.

Requests for new things at the fair mainly center on entertainment.

“People always want to know who is coming to the fair (to play),” said John Lasko, the board member who chairs the entertainment committee.

The toughest call for the Crawford County Fair Board, though is what acts to go after.

“Entertainment — that’s where we get our money,” Bill Winters, another board member, said.

The Crawford County Fair is a nonprofit entity run by volunteers that reinvests any profits back into its facilities and programs. This year, the fair board will spend about $180,000 on capital improvements on the fairgrounds

“We walk a fine line,” Lasko said. “We’re always trying to get good quality acts that people want to see — and have ticket prices people can afford.”

The fairgrounds has a seating capacity of approximately 10,000 for its major concerts. The covered grandstand has 5,000 seats while approximately 5,000 open air seats are added on the racetrack area between the grandstand and stage for concerts.

However, some of the current superstar country or rock-and-roll acts are asking for contracts of $1 million and more to play, according to Lasko.

For the Crawford County Fair to sign one of the elite acts on a $1 million contract, ticket prices would have to be at least $100 each just for the fair to break even on the event and also assumes a full sellout of the 10,000-seat capacity.

“The tickets would just have to be so astronomical,” Lasko said.

The board does strive to get big-name acts for the fair — such as The Band Perry this year and Alan Jackson in 2012.

It’s also is willing to experiment with its entertainment.

“We always try to make room for different things and be progressive,” William Davis, first vice president of the fair board, said. “That’s how we got to where we are today.”

The Crawford County Fair booked rock bands as one of the featured concerts some years and even had professional wrestling one year and legendary comedian Bob Hope another time as main grandstand events. But, those types of events just don’t pack the grandstand like the country music shows do.

“We’ve lost our shirts with rock-and-roll each time,” Winters said.

The board sticks to country music because it has been successful for the fair.

However, times are changing on the country music front, too, according to Lasko.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher,” he said. That’s because elite and mid- to high-level country acts are teaming up to create mega shows in stadiums that hold 30,000 to 50,000 people.

“You have to check tour dates and you may be able to get the (mid- to high-level) act, but those acts are under contract with the mega tour first and they may not be released by the elite act to come play on your date,” Lasko said.

Additional players these days are the casinos.

They’re looking to book the same types of acts as the Crawford County Fair, “but the casinos have a lot more money to give them,” Lasko said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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