MISSOULA – It looks like fans of the Western Montana Fair will once more be spared admission fees come August, with Missoula County commissioners expected to endorse a second "free fair" this year.
Missoula County eliminated gate fees for the first time last year and it not only improved fair traffic but generated more revenue for the many non-profits and other vendors that set up during the fair.
"But it brought people together. And we had a full, busy fair where people made those community connections. And we always like to say the fair is not an event, it’s a place," Missoula County Fairgrounds director Emily Bentley said. "And we recaptured that with free admission so we’re definitely going to continue it."
While other local and regional fairs in the Northwest have been waiving admission fees for a number of years, the concept is a new one in Montana and Bentley says the Western Montana Fair is among the largest to adopt such an approach.
County officials believe its helped bring more return fair visitors, and that’s been welcomed by the vendors, many of whom provide important local programs in Western Montana.
"We love having them. We love the fair food. We love bringing people together. And the free admission’s so great because people can come and they don’t feel like they have to stay all day. They can just come for an hour, come for lunch or come from dinner and then go home. And then come back the next day," Bentley said.
"And so, just less pressure, especially for those big families. The gate charge was really starting to add up. So we’d rather people spend that money on fun than on the gates,
" she added.
In addition to free admission again this year, the county will also be offering new attractions, such as a "MADE Fair Marketplace" to promote local craftsmen and businesses during the Western Montana Fair.
This year’s fair runs from Tuesday, August 7th until Sunday, August 12th .