BLACKFOOT — It’s estimated that the Eastern Idaho State Fair brings in over $6 million in commerce the eight days that is open to the public and while that’s a ‘huge chunk of change,’ it doesn’t include the multiplying effect that spills outside of the fairgrounds, according to Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tish Dahmen.
“There’s no doubt that the fair has a positive economical impact on the community with approximately 225,000 people attending the fair,” Dahmen said. “There’s money to be made from the people who come into town and stay in the hotels, buy gas...or maybe their sandal breaks at the fair and they have to go buy some new shoes.”
She went on to say that there are over 350 fair employees and 250 volunteers and that doesn’t include the vendors and the carnival workers.
“Think about the people who have booths,” Dahmen added. “They need supplies...table coverings...scotch tape, tacks...all that kind of stuff and they are likely buying it right here in the local community.”
Dahmen noted that Idaho sales tax revenue also shows a significant spike in Bingham County in September which she believes is directly attributed to the fair.
Most area business people in Blackfoot (even local restauranteurs) agree that fair week has a positive impact on their business.
Kevin Rupe owner of Rupe’s Burgers, whose business is close by the fairgrounds, said that “twenty years ago, fair week was a slow week, but that is no longer the case.”
“It’s a great week,” Rupe said. “Through the years, fair food has gotten so expensive that a lot of families are making it a tradition to meet at Rupe’s and eat before they go to the fair. We also see a lot of new clientele.”
Stan’s Restaurant, also located near the fairgrounds, sees increased business the week before the fair and the week of the fair.
“We are especially busy in the evenings,” said Stan’s senior waitress Gina Haddon. “People come in to cool down and have a drink.”
Even Homestead Farms Restaurant, located on the other side of town, gets busier during fair week.
“People come in to get off their feet and cool off...they’re hot, tired and want to have a good meal and be waited on,” said Homestead Farm’s manager Virginia Burke.
Blackfoot’s Short Stop convenience store manager Mary Ann McCrary said business definitely picks up and that all kinds of people stop in for gas, lottery tickets and cold drinks. She added jokingly, “I used to go to the fair to see all the strange people...but working in a convenience store, I don’t have to.”
A few business people commented that while they love the fair, it causes their business to slow down.
Locally owned and operated White Eagle Convenience Store, finds business to be somewhat slower during fair week.
“The fair hurts us a little since we’re not on the main thoroughfare,” said White Eagle manager Chad Trappett. “We’re the neighborhood store on the other side of the tracks and we rely mostly on local support and most locals go to the fair. But, we do pick right back up again after the fair.”
Downtown Bread Co. will be adjusting their hours during fair week to 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. “We won’t be serving lunches during fair week,” said Downtown Bread manager Brittany Billings. “It gets so slow; everyone wants to eat at the fair and it’s not worth staying open.”