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New fair operator up in air

The future of the 101st Halifax County Fair hangs in the balance as county officials decide who they will hire to operate the annual traditional fall event that for the past three years — since 2008 — has been overseen by the county. Three valid proposals were submitted in response to the county’s request for proposals (RFP) to operate the 2011 Halifax County Fair, County Administrator George Nester said Tuesday.

James Edmunds, a former supervisor who now represents the 60th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, responded with a proposal from “Fun At The Fair.”

According to Nester, Edmunds made two offers in his proposal – one to share 15 percent of the gate proceeds with the county and the other to pay the county a guaranteed $5,000 along with 10 percent of the gate proceeds.

The second proposal came from County Fair Productions Inc. of Winterville, Ga.

That organization offered the county a 25 percent take of the gate proceeds with a guarantee of no less than $11,610, Nester said.

Fair Productions II of Farmingdale, N.Y. made the third proposal which would give the county 5 percent of the gross gate take-in along with a $10,000 rental fee for use of the fairgrounds.

The RFP was advertised in local newspapers, and county officials opened the three responses last Wednesday.

“We received three valid proposals with two having experience operating fairs,” Nester said.

The county administrator along with Supervisors Tom West and Doug Bowman, both of whom were appointed to serve on fair committee, are now doing “due diligence” by checking references of the three applicants as well as certificate of insurance documents.

No firm date has been set for a decision to be made, Nester said, noting the decision will be made “administratively” and not by the board of supervisors.

The county is seeking a full service operator who is capable of offering all aspects of the fair.

The RFP sought to obtain a contractor who will be responsible for planning, staffing, promotion, entertainment, exhibitors, vendors, rides, security, concessions and overall fair operations.

The selected offeror will be paid from the receipts that the fair generates, Nester explained.

In the proposal, applicants were asked to identify what percentage of the gross revenues from the fair will be paid to the county for the use of the fairgrounds.

Proposals also identified the offeror’s prior successful experiences with similar events and at least three references from localities where the offeror has provided similar services.

The county has the option of considering a multiple year contract, Nester said.

A three-year contract may be written in as an addendum that can be executed after the end of the first fair operated by the chosen applicant.

Last year’s Halifax County Fair marked the 100th anniversary of the annual tradition.

That fair showed a loss of $2,862.33 that was attributed to capital improvements made at the fairgrounds.

According to Nester, the fair ended with a loss due mainly to a utility related expense for installing the sewer and transfer to the pump station.

This year no matter who is selected to operate the fair, Nester said the county will still have certain expenses for utilities like water and sewer fees.

But for now, Nester said it appears as if the Halifax County Fair will go on this fall.

“It looks like it will,” the county administrator said adding, “but this year, the county will be on the sideline and just give the key to the fairgrounds to the operator and then get it back when the fair is over, and hopefully we will make some money too.”