GREENFIELD — Tom White would have liked to have seen fewer rubber boots at this year’s 4-H fair. Fewer puddles, fewer dark clouds and a not-so-muddy parking lot, too.
But days of rain put a damper on the 2015 Hancock County 4-H Fair, said White, president of the Hancock County 4-H Agricultural Association, which operates the annual festival and maintains the fairgrounds. About 2 inches of rain was recorded in Greenfield during fair week, leading to soggy conditions, lower profits and the cancellation of a handful of events that usually draw big crowds to the fairgrounds.
The county’s agricultural association could be short thousands of dollars in revenue as a result, and many fair vendors say they are feeling the rain’s impact as well.
The big events are where the agricultural association makes the most money, White said. When bad weather disrupts the schedule, the effect is felt by both fair organizers and vendors.
“When events are canceled, then you don’t get the foot traffic you would have had. You don’t get people buying from vendors or food stations,” he said. “It’s a tough decision, and we don’t like making it.”
Rain and the subsequent mud led officials to cancel the two-day 4-H horse and pony show that kicks off the fair, and events at the multipurpose arena — including the tractor pull, quad races and new Farmer’s Olympics obstacle course contest — also were called off.
White estimated that without the entrance fees from some of those events the fair’s revenue will be down roughly $10,000 — a disappointing prospect, he said, since those funds would have been used to maintain fairgrounds facilities and host other 4-H events.
There are a number of factors board members consider before they pull the plug on an event, said Zach Reynolds, who helps plan events at the fair’s multipurpose arena.
Safety is always at the top of the list, he said, but because the outdoor arena hosts multiple shows and activities, officials also must consider whether the facility can be returned to a usable condition after one event is finished.
“We can’t make a mess of things over there,” Reynolds said of the multipurpose arena. “If we can’t put on a good enough show for people to pay for and watch, we’ll usually cancel.”
Some events bring in more money than others, fair board members said. The tractor pull, for example, usually nets $2,000 to $3,000; and officials were hoping a $40 participation fee for the inaugural Farmer’s Olympics would have brought in a decent profit.
Effects of the rain were felt in other areas of the fair as well.
Jennifer Burton, whose family owns Burton Brothers Amusements and operates the 22 rides on the fair’s midway, said she is trying to be optimistic. She is sure the weather had an impact on ticket sales but is waiting to see just how much.
“Usually the community supports the fair,” she said. “We’re hopeful that, on the days when it wasn’t raining, people still showed up.”
Years of success at the annual Riley Festival led Angie and Bill Faris to bring their noodle stand, Granny Franer’s Homemade Noodles, to the 4-H fair for the first time this year. A storm on opening night took a three-hour window out of their expected dinner sales, Angie Faris said, and she expected that to be their worst day.
For the rest of the week, intermittent drizzles took a toll on foot traffic, Bill Faris said. But once the clouds cleared, fairgoers usually returned.
“When it stops raining, they come right back out,” he said.
Ron Seger and his business partner, Melissa Johnson, operate a T-shirt stand and have been coming to the Hancock County 4-H Fair for the past four years. Sales are down by about 50 percent, they said, and they blame the decline on the rain.
Storms have knocked down portions of their displays and damaged merchandise as well. It’s been frustrating, he said, but they plan to return to Greenfield for future fairs.
While turnouts and less-than-stellar revenue have been disappointing, there have been rainy fairs in the past, and there will be rainy fairs in the future, local farmer Jon Sparks said.
“It is what it is,” he said. “It’s Mother Nature. You can’t control it. You just deal with it and move on.”