SEMO District Fair board president says event to bring in about $1.3 million

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The eight-day SEMO District Fair is expected to infuse about $1.3 million into the pocketbooks of local businesses and fair vendors this year, fair board president Pete Poe told local business people Friday.

"About 800,000 of that will move around the area before leaving, and about $500,000 will leave with the carnival and various food vendors," said Poe, who spoke about the economic impact and history of the SEMO District Fair at the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce's First Friday Coffee at the Show Me Center. This is the fair's 155th year.

Using a multiplier of five, Poe said, he estimates the total economic impact on the area from the fair at $5 million.

"That's money that will move around in our area before it leaves," he said.

Last year, $39,000 was collected in sales tax during the eight-day fair.

A number of local charitable and religious organizations also benefit from the fair by receiving a donation in exchange for manning the entrance gates. Last year $25,000 was donated to volunteer groups that did this, Poe said. About 600 volunteers helped with last year's SEMO District Fair.

The fair board is also reinvesting its money into the city, spending about $900,000 in the last three years to acquire additional land to expand the Arena Park fairgrounds.

The fair has taken place at four locations over the years, Poe said.

It was first held near the old Saint Francis Hospital, then moved to a Kingshighway location where Pagoda Gardens is now, and later to Capaha Park before moving to Arena Park where it's been for 73 years.

Poe himself has served on the fair board for about 30 years.

"People say when are you going to retire? When you go to work talking about cotton candy and carousels, what more do you need?" he said.

The fair association has 700 members and is operated by a 12-member board of directors. About 80 people serve as active committee members who help plan each year's fair. The fair has no paid staff, but that may have to change in the future, Poe said,

"Volunteers are not hard to find, but volunteers who can devote a lot of time are," he said.

When it comes to the fairgrounds, Poe said the fair board is working with the city on a park improvement plan, similar to the one already in progress for Capaha Park. The fair board is working with fairground development consultants.

"We want to see how we can better utilize the ground we have," Poe said.

For the past four years, fair attendance has averaged about 100,000 people.

A demographic breakdown of fairgoers follows:

18 percent of fairgoers are under age 12

35 percent are 12 to 25

25 percent are 26 to 50

21 percent are over age 50.

The SEMO District Fair is the oldest agriculture-based fair in the state and the fourth largest, Poe said.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

Arena Park, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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