OWATONNA — With the Steele County Free Fair 10 months away, the board of directors closed the book on another fiscal year as they hosted the annual meeting of the Steele County Agricultural Society.
The meeting took place at the Steele County History Center on Thursday evening where all members of the agricultural society were invited to attend. During the meeting, the treasurer went through the income and expense report for the fiscal year that ran from October 2018 to September 2019. Overall, Tim Arlt stated that it was a good year for the fair.
Areas where the income for the fair increased included carnival income, total liquor income and non-fair rental. Arlt added that it was a record year for cash transactions at the ATM, increasing the income by 14.6% from the previous year. During the 2019 fair, more than $200,000 in $20-bills were dispensed via ATM.
Sponsorships were also drastically increased in 2019 by almost 20%.
Increases for expenses largely revolved around liquor, entertainment and maintenance/repairs. For the total liquor expense, Arlt explained that this largely had to do with the start-up costs for the new Steele Saloon and that 2020 will be a better determination on what kind of money is made from having the liquor tent. Regardless, the total liquor income still showed a profit of more than $150,000.
Despite showcasing two popular musical acts on the grandstand in 2019, Arlt said that the increase in entertainment expenses had more to do with the additional shows across the grounds. Specifically, Arlt said that bringing the dog show and bringing back the human cannonball increased the expenses by about $11,000.
The maintenance/repairs expenses were easily explained during the meeting as the removal of the north end of the race track was a $97,500 project. Aside from that project, Arlt said that they were actually below the average number for that expense.
After all the numbers were crunched, the net ordinary income for the 2019 fair totaled $70,479.14. This does not, however, include the cost of building the new cattle barn after one of the older cattle barns collapsed in February due to heavy snowfall. Incorporating that additional expense — as well as some rebates and insurance settlements that provide additional income — the fair was in the red by $155,110.42.
This was a unique year, however, as Arlt reminded that group that the new barn is paid off and that the fair still has a cash reserve.
Also during the annual meeting, five board members were re-elected to serve as directors for additional three-year terms. These directors included Jim Linder, who has served on the board since 1998 and is currently the historian and director of hospitality; Bruce Busho, who has served on the board since 1996 and is currently a parking director and serves on the long-range plan committee; Gene Fisher, who has served on the board since 2004 and is the director of parking and works with the safety committee; Wayne Steele, who has served on the board since 2016 and is currently the director of entertainment and publicity and the vice president; and Josh Prokopec, who has worked for the fair since 1995 and recently was appointed as a board director in August 2019.
Following the annual meeting, the directors held their regular meeting where they re-appointed their officers. Dan Deml was re-appointed president, Steele was re-appointed vice president and Arlt was re-appointed treasurer.