MARSHALL - The Lyon County Board voted unanimously in a special session on Tuesday night to increase funding for the Lyon County Fair and make admission free.
Pat Verly, chairman of the Lyon County Agricultural Society's fair board, asked the board to increase the county's contribution from $14,500, the current level of county funding, by $25,500 for a total of $40,000.
There was much discussion of the practical aspects of funding, but no one on the board, or of about 20 people attending the meeting, spoke against the proposal.
Verly argued that a free fair would increase attendance and result in greater revenue for food vendors.
"We need people to say, 'Hey it's a beautiful night, let's go to the fair.'" Verly said. "And they will if they don't have to spend any money unless they want to."
Some of the loss of revenue from admissions could be made up from a $3-$5 increase in grandstand admission prices, Verly said.
Verly's reasoning was supported by several people attending the meeting.
"I've seen all the dedication of the people who exhibit and set up the fair," said Patty Lessman, superintendent of the open class building at the fairgrounds. "I think what we need to do is get people there to see it."
Verly also pointed out in response to questions from the board that the fair does not yet have a carnival contract, and free admission would make the venue more attractive to carnivals if people had more money to spend on rides when they come to the fair.
It has been increasingly difficult to get carnivals for fairs in the state, as older carnivals with older rides go out of business.
Commissioner Bob Fenske brought the issue to the question.
"As far as getting a carnival, it's better if we make a quick decision," Fenske said.
The board decided that with the increase in funding, the county would act as the fiscal agent of the fair but not interfere in the decisions of the fair board.