By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Attendance at the 45th annual Carbondale Mountain Fair, July 29-31, might have been up a bit from that of previous years, and the event contributed perhaps up to $100,000 in combined revenues to the fair’s sponsoring organization, Carbondale Arts, and to the Town of Carbondale, according to Carbondale Arts Director Amy Kimberly.
Kimberly said that the Mountain Fair typically draws between 15,000 and 20,000 revelers over the course of the three-day event, and this year saw more of the same.
“It seemed slightly down, to me, on Saturday,” she said, possibly due to that day’s high temperatures, and estimated that over the course of Friday, Saturday and Sunday the Fair drew “maybe 18,000 people.”
In terms of revenues, Kimberly reported that the event’s gross income (before any bills were paid or sales-tax liability to the town were figured out) came to $238,360 — including booth rentals from vendors, income from the Cantina bar tent, and revenues from sales at the Mountain Fair’s own vendor activities, such as the Valley Artists booth.
Kimberly said the gross income this year was almost exactly the same as it was in 2015, when the final tally was $238,269.
“By all intents and purposes, it’s up maybe a couple hundred dollars and a thousand people” over last year’s numbers, she said.
Some vendors, of course, do better than others from year to year, and Kimberly pointed out one in particular who does well almost every year — Mark Ludy, from Ft. Collins, Colorado; illustrator, artist and entertaining figure for children of all ages.
Ludy, she said, raked in about $23,000 on his own, which Kimberly said is a fairly typical performance for him at the Mountain Fair.
“He probably was one of our best selling vendors” at this year’s event, Kimberly said.
Out of that gross-income figure, the Fair must pay town sales taxes, which Kimberly estimated will be around $20,000 to $22,000, or roughly the same as was paid last year.
The net proceeds filling the Carbondale Arts coffers, Kimberly said, are expected to be “maybe between $70,000 and $80,000,” although a final tally is not yet available.
One other revenue figure she did not have on hand was how much collateral business was done over the Fair weekend by the “bricks-and-sticks” businesses in town, which characteristically see an upward bump in business from the thousands of people wandering around Carbondale during the Fair. Because sales-tax figures are considered proprietary information for each business, and exact financial figures usually are not released, that information generally is rather hazy.
But, Kimberly said, the town has a new sales-tax tracking system that, in the future, might make it easier to determine how much local businesses benefit, financially, from the Fair.
T-shirt sales, a significant annual fund-raiser for the Fair organization and Carbondale Arts, were “up by a couple thousand” in revenues this year, Kimberly continued.
A new item this year was the sale of reusable metal cups, purchased with the help of a grant from the town as a way to cut down on the Fair’s trash generation. The cups, made by Kleen Kanteen of Chico, Calif., were sold primarily to hold the various hard-liquor drinks served up at the Cantina bar tent.
The Fair organization ordered 2,500 of the 16-ounce stainless steel cups (along with 2,500 of the red, recyclable plastic cups of the same size, available to those reluctant to pay the $8 cost of the Kleen Kanteen), and only had about 600 of the steel cups left after the Fair ended.
“We think we might have sold more hard liquor this year than beer,” she mused, although that would be difficult to determine given the fact that beer was being dispensed mostly in the old-style “corn cups” made of compostable material.
Kimberly said the Kleen Kanteen cups were deemed a success, but noted that it is not certain whether they will be back again next year or whether some other reusable or recyclable cup will turn up instead. Those decisions, she said, will be made starting in October, when the Fair Board meets to talk about next year’s Fair, although she predicted that, at the least, “I think we’ll have some of the Kleen Kanteen cups available, because they’re a wonderful souvenir.”
Kimberly said the Green Team was very active in keeping the Fair’s recycling effort at a fever pitch, particularly after a lapse in last year’s recycling effort that sent at least one truckload of recyclable material to the county landfill instead of a recycling center.
“Ninety percent of (this year’s) Mountain Fair waste was composted or recycled,” she said proudly, “which is the most ever. After last year’s problem, that was watched closely this year.”
Another advance for this year’s Fair, Kimberly said, was a determination to “keep it as locally based as possible” by signing up the Carbondale-based Roaring Fork Beer Company (RFBC) and the Marble Distilling Co. to supply much of the alcoholic product for the Cantina’s operations (a total of 70 kegs of beer were consumed at the Cantina, according to the RFBC).
And those alcoholic beverages that were not made here in Carbondale, she said, were made in Colorado — rum from Crested Butte, hard cider from Paonia and a mojito mix produced in Snowmass.
Kimberly said the Cantina generated about $92,000 in revenue, about $3,000 less than the tally from last year.
“Every number is pretty close to last year,” she concluded. “I don’t think the goal is to keep growing the Fair. I think it (20,000 or fewer) is a nice number. I mean, we don’t want it to be any less, (but) there is a maximum number of people who can go through the park” in the course of a weekend.
As for the general comportment of the crowds at the Fair, Kimberly said the police reported it went fairly smoothly, though she did notice more ambulances picking up people at Sopris Park than usual, though she had no details about the causes behind those incidents.
All told, she said, “It was definitely a most awesome Fair.”
There will be a volunteers’ party at the Launchpad from 5 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 19, to thank the 300 or more volunteers who helped at the Fair, Kimberly said.
Published in The Sopris Sun on August 18, 2016.