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Local businesses, fair organizers hopeful Mid-State Fair will bring in needed revenue

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Posted at 4:45 PM, Jul 21, 2021

The California Mid-State Fair is a huge economic driver for the City of Paso Robles.

The annual event rakes in millions of dollars each year.

Organizers are hopeful that this year will do the same after the fair was called off last year due to COVID-19.

The food, the rides, and the fun are all back for the 75th year at the California Mid-State Fair.

"I will say it's really exciting," said Roselina Luera of Paso Robles.

Over the past decade, the fair has brought in roughly 400,000 people over its 12-day run.

But this time around, we're on the heels of a global pandemic.

"I think everybody's cautiously optimistic," said Tom Keffury of the California Mid-State Fair.

The fair generated about $90,000,000 into the local economy in 2019.

One year later, it was called off due to the pandemic.

"To be without that in 2020 was obviously devastating not only for us but the local businesses," Keffury said.

The operating budget of the Paso Robles Event Center is about $15,000,000 and the fair makes up about 90% of that.

The event center is state property but it's not state-funded so it's since applied for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant to try to recoup the lost cash.

"We're a business and we have to make money to continue to operate," Keffury added.

Meanwhile, the fair says about 2/3 of fairgoers are from San Luis Obispo or northern Santa Barbara Counties.

About 1/3 come from San Francisco, Los Angeles, or the Central Valley, with many staying a night or two at our local hotels.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites says in years past, they've been 90 to 100% sold out during the fair's nearly two-week operation but this year, the demand isn't as high.

"But we're still going to see at least 70 to 80% which is way better than we had last year and then we probably would, anyways," said John Arnold, General Manager of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.

The Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce says most hotels are seeing the same occupancy.

"So that's challenging because we know that the fair gets them through a big part of the year and then they look forward to that cash injection in order to pay their bills and make ends meet," said Gina Fitzpatrick, President/CEO of the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce.

While the fair is down a few rides and vendors this year and concerts aren't happening every night at the Grandstand Arena, organizers are still looking forward to the next 12 days of fair fun.

"We are thrilled that we are opening," Keffury said. "We are thrilled that we got the fair open and we're thrilled that we get to have a fair. We're thrilled that we get to welcome the community back."

Keep in mind that the hours this year are different compared to years past. Monday through Thursday, the doors open at 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, they open at 12 p.m. It closes at midnight every night.

The fair runs through August 1.