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Western Montana Fair breaks records

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Aug 14 2013 10:48:50 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

It was a record-breaking year for the Western Montana Fair.

Missoula Fairgrounds managers tell us it’s welcome news after low numbers last year.

NBC Montana wanted to find out how far-reaching the economic boost went, so we talked to one Missoula mom who says her daughter’s gymnastics club, Mismo Gymnastics, relies on the fair for a fund-raising opportunity.  

If you parked near Opportunity Resources during fair week, you probably ran into Michelle Johnsen – she was busy finding fair-goers a place to park.

“There was definitely a lot more traffic this year,” she tells us.  “There were times when our lots would fill and there were more people wanting to park and we just didn't have places to put them.”

Johnsen tells us having a daughter in gymnastics can be costly considering the fees and cost of travel.  That's why Johnsen says fund-raising is critical.

“We've gone to some big meets in the past but this January we'll be competing in Hawaii,” she says.  “This was a great opportunity for us this year to raise the money.”  

This was the Mismo Gymnastics’ fourth and most successful year managing parking lots for local businesses like the Dollar Tree, Treasure Chest and Opportunity Resources.

“This was probably our biggest year yet,” Johnsen says.  

Fairgrounds Director Steve Earle knows the fair business.  In the four years he's been on the job, he tells us this was the most lucrative.

“More people came, spent more money, however you want to look at it but had a lot more fun,” he says.

Earle tells us the fair grossed nearly $315,000, a $70,000 increase from last year.

In fact, this year the Western Montana Fair broke the all-time record of $298,000.

He tells us the carnival gross alone was up 28 percent from last year, which he says is a solid first year for North Star Amusements.

“There was a lot more interest I think in the community,” says Earle.  “I think one of the things that drove that interest was the free admission from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. during the weekdays.”

As for Johnsen, a successful fair means a successful fund-raiser.

“You could tell attendance was up just by how many people attended the fair and this is a great fund-raiser that comes at a great time,” she says.  “During that lunch hour when it was free to get in traffic really picked up at that time.”   

Mismo Gymnasts have several fund-raisers a year but Johnsen says the fair is far and away the biggest of them all.