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Free Fair Popular In Northeast

August 12, 2014, 6:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Free Fair Popular In Northeast
ABERDEEN, SD -

It's a popular event, and you don't have to pay for it. Those could be a couple reasons the Brown County Fair can boast attendance numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

If you can pass all the temptations along the way, you could walk through the Brown County Fair without giving up a dime.

Erich Schaffhauser: How much money have you had to spend so far?
Sonja Rath: We haven't gotten to the food yet so none so far.

Rath got through a kids playground, a fair entrance and parking area Tuesday with her spending count still at zero. Big shows in the grandstand and rides cost money, but there are smaller shows and activities that don't.

Brown County Fair board president Matt Zeller doesn't expect that to change.

"In my six years on the board, it's never been discussed. Obviously we're always looking for new ways that we can bring in revenue for the fair but we understand that having a free fair, free admission, free events in our tents and stuff like that is a big draw for us," Zeller said.

Fair attendance was just less than 300,000 last year according to its manager.

Most years, George Toupal visits the fair daily after work. That routine would change, she says, if she had to pay to enter.

"I wouldn't come every day and I think a lot of people it would deter them from coming as much," Toupal said.

The board is able to offer the free event thanks to multiple revenue sources including sponsors, donors, vendor rental fees and grandstand ticket sales. The county budgets hundreds of thousands of dollars but the fair makes that money back by turning a profit, its manager says.

"As long as we can keep it free and it still generates money for the county, it's just a great deal, win/win for everybody and a chance for everybody to come out and have fun," Zeller said.

The fair also takes in revenue from campsite fees and the county has added more of those within the past five years.

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