Throwing a county fair for the first time ever is a lot like losing your virginity, it turns out: The stakes are high and the results may be a little messy and awkward, but that doesn't mean it wasn't thrilling, and it certainly doesn't mean you're going to stop doing it. "We cannot wait to do it again next year," raves Dana Cain, who, along with partner Tracy Weil, was the Denver County Fair's principle organizer. "It was phenomenal!" And while she acknowledges there were a few kinks in the hose along the way, she's always been a woman of ideas, and she's got no shortage of them now.
"We want the animal pavilion to, like, double or triple in size, and we'll probably move the holistic and green pavilions," she muses, "but my dream -- I'll just go ahead and tell you about it now -- is to add a pavilion: The Geek Pavilion. It's so Denver. There's just so much love of tech in the city. Where I got the idea was, I was just walking along one day, and I thought, god dang, I wish we could do a spelling bee. But where would it go? You'd need something like... a Geek Pavilion."
But beyond the pavilions and the basic layout, Cain says, the real highlight was the competitions, and she and Weil have plans to bring those to the forefront: "Next year, we're going to include more of the live competition, because those were the things that the public just devoured -- the pie eating contests were just, you would have thought it was the second coming. Ms Denver County Fair drag competition -- if you looked out into the audience, you could see that it was not a drag queen crowd, and they loved it. I mean, what's funnier than a man in a dress?"
Of course, it's not just the question of whether or not it was fun (it was) -- there's also the inevitable question of the money. The LLC Cain and Weil created to run the fair was a for-profit endeavor, and since they're both independent entrepreneurs, both had a lot at stake -- Cain notes that, besides raising and spending money, both gave up a lot of other potential work to fully devote themselves to making the County Fair happen. And it was not cheap: All in all, Cain estimates, the price tag was about $300,000, about half of which they spent on hiring legendary concert promoter Barry Fey out of retirement to book Devo as the headlining act.
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Cain says they probably won't be doing anything on that scale next year, but she also acknowledges that it really helped to bring attention to the first one, and the fair did indeed get a ridiculous amount of attention: A write-up by the Associated Press let to bits on NPR, CBS and the New York Times, leading to a level of national attention nobody had even anticipated: "I mean, that AP story appeared in about 260 national media outlets," Cain notes. "It was pretty dang amazing."
At the end of the day, it was basically a financial success. "We're still kind of waiting for the dust to settle in terms of financials, but it looks like we just about broke even, give or take a few thousand," Cain says. "For a first year, we couldn't have done much better."