This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Jason Anderson of RecordNet.com…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
Change Paying Off Big
STOCKTON – The first two days of horse racing at the San Joaquin County Fair produced packed grandstands and big betting handles, giving organizers reason to believe their move to offer free admission has delivered desired results that may buoy the fair’s future.
Director of racing Larry Swartzlander said the handle for opening day at the track exceeded $1.3 million Thursday, up 50 percent from $854,000 on the first day of racing in 2010. He estimated an increase of approximately 30 percent for the second day of racing Friday.
“The fair took a little different approach to how they were going to get the community involved, and I think it has definitely made a difference,” said racing secretary Tom Doutrich, a member of the California Authority of Racing Fairs. “You’ve got a fair that a lot of people in our industry thought was going away, and now it looks like it’s going to be here a long time.”
Fairgoers paid admission fees of $9 for adults and $6 for children in recent years, but the board of directors decided to offer free admission on the advice of a consultant.
“At first, we were like, ‘Free?’ ” board chairman James Jimenez said. “Our consultant said other fairs that have gone free have found that what they get are families, and that’s just what we’re looking for. As a board, we made a decision to go for it, and it has worked. People keep saying they haven’t seen crowds like this in years.”
Christopher Ivy, a 50-year-old Stockton resident, attended the horse races with his wife and 2-year-old son. He said free admission was the primary reason he chose to take his family to the fair.
“The way the economy is, that’s great,” he said. “That’s the only reason we came out today. It helps a lot.”
Others echoed those sentiments.
“Right now, every penny counts,” said Heriberto Acevedo, a 37-year-old forklift operator from Stockton. “When people save money at the entrance, that’s more money they’ll have to spend drinking beer or eating something or betting on horses.”
Galen Quarton, a 61-year-old Stockton resident, agreed, saying people will spend money saved on admission elsewhere on the fairgrounds.
“Instead of costing $5 for a family of five, people can bring their kids and buy cotton candy. If you’ve got to leave that $45 at the gate, that’s kind of tough on people in today’s times. That’s $45 they can spend with the vendors.”
Jimenez said fairgoers are doing just that, leading to big increases in money spent on the midway and other parts of the fair.
“I cannot tell you how thrilled we are,” Jimenez said. “The vendors are thrilled. The carnival is thrilled. I’m thrilled. Everybody’s thrilled.”
Director of marketing and promotions Lea Isetti said free admission has contributed to larger crowds and a livelier atmosphere at the fair.
“The board of directors made a conscious decision to say let’s try this and see how it goes,” Isetti said. “You and I both know with the economy the way it is, and with Stockton and San Joaquin County being at the forefront of everything bad, this can only be perceived as a good thing.”
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