Its fun to go to the fair but how would you like to run one?
Bob Batista is in his 13th year managing the Western Idaho Fair, which draws about 250,000 people each year.
He works nonstop in August, fueled in part by 5-hour energy shots. Two sat next to his computer on Monday.
August owns me, said Batista, who isnt concerned just with whats happening outside his office door. Theoretically, once the fair starts, Im on to the next year.
I love the fair but hate the crowds. When is the best time to go?
The first day and last days attract the smallest number of people. So if you dont want to wait in line for rides, those are good days to go.
The Knights of the Realm jousting act bolstered ticket sales on opening day last year. So the men-in-armor are back again this year, for opening day only.
Saturdays are traditionally the busiest days, followed by Monday (family night).
How many people work at the fair?
Expo Idahos staff swells from 12 to more than 500, as part-time staff is added. About 50 food vendors and 300 commercial exhibitors move onto the grounds.
We call this the little city the little city moves in, Batista said.
How big are the fairgrounds?
The county-owned Western Idaho Fair property called Expo Idaho when the fair isnt running is on 240 acres and includes Memorial Stadium, Les Bois Park and Ladybird Park.
There are a dozen buildings on the property, which includes 1 mile of the Greenbelt.
What are the biggest challenges?
In recent years, its been hot weather and high winds. To help fair-goers beat the heat, all seating has been shaded and there are fans in the seat-and-eat areas.
Our goal is for you to stay longer.
This year, air quality is a concern. Batista was worried it might keep some people away, but improved conditions had him feeling more optimistic Thursday.
Any new challenges?
Yes; local concert venues have scheduled major performers during the fairs biggest acts:
Weird Al Yankovic is performing at the fair at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, the same night ZZ Top is playing the Eagle River Pavillion.
Chris Young is performing at the fair at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the same night Joe Walsh is at the nearby Revolution Concert Hall.
80s rock band Styx will be performing at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24, the same night Crosby, Stills & Nash are at the Idaho Botanical Garden.
Why so much competition?
The concert business is the concert business. People book shows when they fit the schedule ... Weve always been the third Friday of August.
Whats your pitch to draw residents to your shows?
Value. All fair shows are free with admission $7 for adults ($5 if purchased before the first day of the fair), $5 for seniors and $4 for kids.
How much does the fair spend on grandstand acts?
No more than $50,000 on any single group or performer. That makes getting A-listers and top-name acts difficult.
Before Rascal Flatts hit the big time, they performed at the fair for $35,000.
Were proud of the fact that we bring in good names, Batista said.
All 4,500 parking spots at the fairground were filled when Clint Black played two years ago. Batista has an aerial photo to prove it.
Does the fair make money, or do you use other events in the year to cover the costs of putting it on?
If you do it right, you should be making money, he said. After expenses, the fair brings in about a quarter-million dollars.
What improvements have you made to facilities?
The buildings have been painted in earth tones red, cream and brown. A new lighting and sound system was added a couple of years ago in the Exposition Building. About six or seven years ago, a new water system was installed.
The turf has taken a beating from events this year, so repairs will be needed.
Speaking of water, can the public bring bottles in?
Coolers and food arent permitted, but individuals may bring in sealed water bottles or empty containers for water. There are water fountains in each building.
Have you considered lowering fair ticket prices?
Admission prices havent been raised in over six years. The Western Idaho Fairs admission prices are among the lowest in the Northwest, he said. But costs for electricity, sewer and labor keep rising.
Why doesnt the fair have rodeos anymore?
The Idaho Cowboy Association used to hold rodeos here, but they were competing with the Caldwell Night Rodeo and attendance wasnt what they wanted.
How many events does Expo Idaho host each year?
About 180 to 190, up from about 125 events in 2000. Its not uncommon for there to be two or more events at the site on the same day. Some of the new events using the site include the Boise Music Festival and Green Expo.
Expo Idaho has the sewer, water, power and parking to host large events.
Were in the rental, event business. Its our bread and butter.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413