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GC Fairgrounds to add new events this year

by R. HANS MILLER
Staff Writer | January 21, 2022 1:05 AM

Grant County Fairgrounds is set to host a variety of events this year, including the annual Grant County Fair and the first annual ’90s Tribute Fest, said Grant County Fairgrounds Director Jim McKiernan.

“For fair, we’re going to announce headliners in February,” McKiernan said, regarding live music.

Live entertainment will be a big push for the county fairgrounds team this year, McKiernan told Grant County commissioners during a commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

The county is not only working to solidify the lineup of bands for the fair itself, but is also working on a ’90s Tribute Fest, which is set for its debut in October. The concept for the show is to highlight great groups focusing on the best music from that decade. The lineup already has 10 tentative bands, McKiernan said, and he’s excited to develop the festival and give area residents and visitors to the county something to look forward to, along with other celebrations held at the fairgrounds.

“The fairgrounds does a little over 180 events a year, most of which are events that other people put on,” McKiernan said. “Fair is one of our own events that we promote. (’90s Tribute Fest) will be the second and then we’re going to try to do a Dia de los Muertos, which is Day of the Dead for the Hispanic population in the area, in late October, and so we’re going to try to tackle three events next year.”

Overall, large events at the fairgrounds bring between $10 million and $12 million annually to Grant County, McKiernan said. Most of that money is spent by tourists from outside of the area who enjoy the festivals, often from Spokane, Portland, Seattle and other areas. The ’90s Tribute Fest, which was originally going to be dubbed “Flannel Fest” is expected to bring in about 2,500 attendees, all who will stay in area hotels and spend money at local businesses.

“The problem was, we found ‘Flannel Fest’ had been used by a bunch of different groups, and we didn’t want to be confused with anything else,” McKiernan said of the name change.

McKiernan said he and his team plan to announce the lineups for the two events in February and VIP tickets should go on sale for the events around the middle of that same month. Otherwise, general admission to the fair and music festival will include open seating for the associated concerts.

Future Farmers of America and 4-H will also be featured during the fair, as always, McKiernan said. The livestock shows those groups participate in are associated with the annual county celebration.

“We anticipate that the 4-H and FFA live animal exhibits and auction will be bigger than in 2021,” McKiernan said.

Overall attendance in 2021 was up 25% from the prior year and McKiernan said he is expecting a similar, if not larger, turnout for 2022.

The auction following the animal showings helps the participating students out with finances, McKiernan said. The animals are awarded placement in the events and then sold at auction and the students get the proceeds, which they can use to invest in their education or other endeavors.

“They keep the proceeds of that and they do make pretty good money on animal projects throughout the fair,” McKiernan said.

McKiernan said the fairgrounds brought in more money than its expenses last year by about $57,000, but that isn’t the point of the fairgrounds. It isn’t about revenue for the county government, but rather about having fun and drawing tourism, he said.

“I don’t think it does anything for county government, but it’s a hell of a good time,” McKiernan said.

R. Hans Miller can be reached via email at rmiller@columbiabasinherald.com.