GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County Agricultural Fair will pump more than $52 million into the local economy, the county’s tourism director said,
During its 10-day run, thousands of people from Clay County and surrounding counties have come to the fair to enjoy its many splendors. Some come for treats like deep-fried Oreos and butter. Others come from mega-acts like Big and Rich or the many carnival rides. And others come for the livestock action that stands at the heart of the fair’s name: agricultural.
Regardless of the reason, Clay County Director of Tourism Kimberly Morgan conservatively estimates that each visitor’s spending power is $100.
“So, I talked with Visit Jacksonville – they have money to do a little more visitor research than we do – and so they actually did a full-scope visitor profile where they broke down a convention or event visitor’s spending habits, for a leisure visitor, and [based on their estimate of $145 in Jacksonville], I’m estimating that our visitor spend is about $100,” Morgan said. “In general, we’re a more-economical destination.”
Morgan said the fair brings in an estimated 250 room nights. Fair General Manager Tasha Hyder said she believes this year will exceed 250 since the fair already has seen marketable increase in visitors than in year’s past. And if all goes as she’s hoping, this will be the fair’s biggest year yet.
Morgan said her estimates are conservative not only to err on the side of caution, but to account for uncounted dollars. Morgan said, for example, that a spontaneous trip that includes a visit to the fair and a Clay County hotel room might be unaccounted for if the hotel forgets to ask why they’re in town. It’s these questions that help shape Morgan’s section of Clay County tourism-based economics.
“After some math with all of our estimates and data, cumulatively, I’m conservatively estimating that the fair brings in about $52 million into our community,” Morgan said.
According to Morgan, most of that money is spent by people coming from outside the county, since roughly 51 percent of fair-goers aren’t from Clay County. Some people are from Jacksonville, Orlando and Georgia. Morgan said that some people came have come from as far as Arizona.
While local hotels, restaurants, shops and other businesses see a lot of that money, naturally, a lot of that money is spent at the fair itself. Despite that, though, the fair isn’t exclusively filling its pockets . That’s because a lot of the fair money is pumped back into the community through volunteer efforts, scholarships and other programs.
“Yes, we do have all of those [rides, events and concerts], but we do a lot more during the fair and throughout the year because we’re a year-round organization,” Hyder said. “Year-round, we’re helping out the community. We have scholarships that we give out. We facilitate the livestock sell at the end of the fair, which last year grossed a quarter of a million dollars.”
According to Hyder, though, the fair doesn’t see a single penny of that $250,000.
“We don’t benefit from that,” Hyder said. “A lot of people think that we do, but we do not. We don’t get a dime of that because it goes right back into the community. Kids get every penny of that.”
Other helping hands the fair has placed in the community include free fair ticket giveaways, hurricane donation drives and partnerships with local agencies such as the Future Farmers of America, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and more.
“We’re really trying to give back to the community that gives back so much to us,” Hyder said.
During fair periods in years past, some local businesses, such as Garber’s Automall outside the Green Cove Springs city limits, saw a downturn as sales. Hyder said this is called the “fair effect.”
“[Garber] would say, ‘we know when the fair is in town because nobody buys cars from us,” Hyder said. “So, what we’ve done to help remedy that is brought [Garber] to the fair. So, you’ll actually see them incorporated into our fair. That helps us because of sponsorship dollars and it helps them because now they are where all the people are.”
Hyder has been the general manager of the fair for four years and in her time, she, Morgan and the county have seen it grow to new heights. Where does she see it in another four years, though?
“Bigger and better,” Hyder said. “I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.”
Which means even more money for the local economy.