Gallatin Co. Fair raises funds for fairgrounds, nonprofits


BOZEMAN, Mont. - The Gallatin County Fair opened its gates in Bozeman Wednesday, beginning a 5-day rush to bring in the money that will help the fairgrounds stay open year-round.

The fair is the single biggest event at the fairgrounds every year and rakes in the most money.

It costs about $230,000 to put on the fair. The biggest chunk of that budget -- 66 percent -- goes to entertainment. But the fair makes that $230,000 back, plus an additional $100,000.

Roughly 60 percent of fair revenue is from ticket sales, while 20 percent comes from a portion of the carnival ride ticket sales.

"The fair is our largest fundraiser. And we will generate almost $100,00 in profit," said Sue Shockley, the manager of the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.

Shockley organizes entertainment from musicians to clown and dog acts -- acts that wow fair-goers every year. It's booking those acts that costs the fair the most money, two-thirds of the events budget.

That money is made back primarily through admission tickets. This year over $15,000 was raised from pre-sale tickets alone.

Shockley told us, "It's nice to have those pre-sales out there so we know we have some revenue coming in."

Shockley says the county fair makes up almost a quarter of the fairgrounds' yearly budget and any profit goes right back into the grounds.

Taxpayers cover about a third of the budget but Shockley says they are trying to get that number down.

"We're working on becoming self sufficient, yes," said Shockley. "We're getting closer. As I said, two-thirds of out budget, we generate."

Shockley says without the county fair they might not be able to bring other events to the grounds through the seasons, explaining, "If we didn't generate the revenue, we'd probably have to close the fairgrounds for part of the year or part of a week."

The Gallatin County Fairgrounds also provides an important fundraising opportunity for local nonprofits.

4-H, an agriculturally focused youth organization, served nachos and hamburgers at the fair Wednesday to make extra money. 4-H has a large presence at the fair, hosting a variety of of animal competitions throughout the week.

Volunteer Janell Barber tells us the fair will help them raise over $5,000, saying, "4-H concessions is our second highest fundraiser."