Steamboat Springs This year's livestock sale at the Routt County Fair in Hayden broke all records, but it was a different story at the fair's two evening music concerts.
Jean Morrow, who helped to organize the two concerts, said the Aug. 16 show featuring buckaroo poet Waddie Mitchell and country singer Brenn Hill drew only about 250 people. The Aug. 17 show by country recording artist Eric Heatherly was even more under-appreciated. Morrow said it was attended by perhaps just 100 people, no more than 150. Morrow was careful to say the attendance figures are very tentative until the members of the fair board review gate receipts.
Fair Board President Robin Lighthizer of rural Hayden said he's not sure what to do about next year, after this year's disappointing concert attendance. He was particularly baffled by the fact that cowboy poet laureate Baxter Black drew a crowd of 1,000 to last year's fair, but Mitchell's appeal didn't match that of Black's.
"We figured that was the answer," Lighthizer said of of the response Black received last year. "I don't know where we missed the boat. I really don't. If anybody has an answer, I'd love to hear it."
Morrow said the fair board probably didn't lose a significant amount of money on the concerts because cash sponsorship from Steamboat Motors, Action Motorsports and Soda Creek Western Mercantile covered much of the basic expenses. She is waiting for a final accounting.
The budget for the Heatherly concert was about $8,000 including sound and lighting. The Mitchell show cost about $3,500 to put on and it cost about $2,500 to bring Hill to the fair. Tickets for the Waddie Mitchell/Brenn Hill show were priced at $15. Tickets for Heatherly's performance were $20. Children were admitted to both shows at no charge.
"This year, the reason we could afford to do (the concerts) was that we didn't do the PRCA rodeo," Lighthizer said. "At the concert Friday night, we come down here and we don't even have 200 people."
Lighthizer said Heatherly's manager told him the night before he had played on a bill that drew a crowd of 15,000 in Las Vegas. Heatherly has a music video that is in heavy rotation on TNN.
Morrow said all of the performers were very easy to work with and reacted with professionalism to the scant turnout.
"Waddie Mitchell and Brenn Hill put on a great performance," Morrow said. "Eric Heatherly had a good attitude. His manager said they understand that fairs are typically up and down. He put on a very good performance."
Lighthizer praised Morrow's efforts in marketing the shows. She said she had hoped the combination of Mitchell and Hill on Thursday night, followed by the relatively rocking country of Heatherly on Friday night, would appeal to a wide age spectrum. But the audience just wasn't there.
Lighthizer acknowledged that other than the 4-H livestock shows, the exhibits of home arts in the exhibition hall and the Sunday night ranch rodeo for families, the musical performances were the main draw for the general public.
Lighthizer, who has been on the fair board for nine years, isn't sure where to turn next.
"Where do we go from here?" he asked.