The North Carolina State Fair has decided to stop the bleeding: The Department of Agriculture announced yesterday
that they are putting the customary headlining concerts inside Dorton Arena on pause, replacing them instead with free exhibitions during the day and a “Homegrown North Carolina” concert series focused on area acts at night.
The decision follows an INDY investigation
in December 2014 that found the State Fair had lost nearly $900,000 in only four years by spending inordinate amounts on national touring acts. For decades, such concerts had been free at the fair, though a switch in booking agents in 2002 led to ticket events with high guarantees. Those gigs rarely paid for themselves. The situation grew dire in recent years, after a new booking agent with no industry experience lost a few hundred thousand dollars annually.
“Do we need concert entertainment in Dorton Arena period? Can we have a circus in there instead, as an example?” Wesley Wyatt, the state fair’s manager, said then
. “We’re reviewing all aspects of the fair—procedures, policies, entertainment, the whole ball of wax. What is the best use of our money?”
In the past three months, sources indicated they’d been contacted by the Department of Agriculture to help pick up the booking slack. Those conversations, though, came to an abrupt end with Tuesday’s announcement. The State Fair is now accepting area booking submissions by email
. Meanwhile, a post on its Facebook page
that asks “What local artists would you like considered for our nightly entertainment?” has already generated more than 200 responses.
We’ll have more on this story in the coming weeks.