The Hill County Fair Board agreed Tuesday to put much of its planning for the 2013 Great Northern Fair on hold while its fairgrounds manager continues to look for a new carnival for the event.
Fairgrounds manager Tim Solomon told the board during its annual monthly meeting that a meeting is scheduled in Lewistown — where Montana fair representatives including from the Fergus County event and the Shelby fair that have canceled or are considering canceling their contracts with Royal West Amusements — will talk about their plans and options.
The Fair Board last month, after consulting with the Hill County attorney, canceled its three-year contract with Royal West. The subsidiary Royal West brings to meet its contractual obligation of providing at least 17 rides had gone out of business, meaning Royal West no longer can guarantee that it will meet its obligation.
Solomon said the Montana fair circuit is in turmoil, with what carnivals will service the fairs unknown at this point. Royal West is partnering with another carnival and putting in bids to work the Montana fairs, and several other carnivals also are feeling out the situation and putting in bids.
Some of the carnivals interested in working the Montana fairs are asking for changes in the dates of the fairs, moving the Hill County fair a week earlier, for example, to better fit the carnival’s schedules.
Solomon said part of the issue is what fairs the other carnivals can schedule in. If they cannot build a circuit of several fairs over the summer, they may not be interested in contracting with the Great Northern Fair.
He said one possibility is the successor to a fair that used to service the Great Northern Fair, McKay Enterprises. The owner of that carnival, Paradise Amusements, has shown interest in signing a contract for the Hill County fair, Solomon said.
The fair board had discussed at several meetings over the summer people’s unhappiness with the quality of the carnival. The 2012 fair was the first year in a second three-year contract with Royal West the board had signed.
Part of the discussion at the board’s monthly meeting Tuesday was how to negotiate a new contract. Setting a one-year contract might be better than a multi-year contract, until the situation has settled out, board members said.
Solomon agreed that a one-year contract probably would be best at this point, but said most of the carnivals are looking for multi-year contracts.
Solomon said the percentage the fair board takes from the carnival sales typically comes to $30,000 to $40,000 each year.
“We probably couldn’t make it without this, ” he said.
The board voted to postpone a decision until their January meeting, or a special meeting to take a vote will be scheduled if necessary.