This time of year, the Saratoga County Fairground is a quiet place — filled not with crowds seeking fried dough or rare brews, but recreational vehicles sheltered in barns for the winter.
But the rest of the year, the county fair and other events held on the grounds have an annual economic impact of about $14 million, according to a new economic analysis.
Visitors coming from outside Saratoga County for fairground events also generated $670,000 in tax revenue and about 200 jobs outside the fairground, according to the analysis by Camoin Associates of Malta.
“We were surprised at the largeness of the number,” said Fair Manager Jeff Townsend.
The report was commissioned by the fair’s board of directors in late 2012 in an effort to show the role the fairground plays in the local economy.
The fairground, located on 30 acres between Prospect Street and Fairground Avenue, had drawn complaints from some village residents about traffic backups and loud music in 2011 and 2012. That resulted in a 2012 agreement for the fair to obtain a mass-gathering permit for new special events expected to exceed 5,000 in attendance.
At this point, officials with both the fair and the village say they have a good working relationship.
“I’ve always appreciated the positive impact the fair has had on the county and on the village, as well,” Mayor John P. Romano said after reviewing the study. “In today’s times, it’s good to have positive news, and this is positive news.”
The study was designed to consider what would be lost if the fairground didn’t exist. It was conducted by collecting a sampling of ZIP codes from people attending the fair or any of eight other major events held on the grounds in 2013.
Total major-event attendance was estimated at 115,000. Last year’s fair drew 79,000 people, while the next-biggest event, Irish Fest, drew 14,000. A radio station-sponsored yard sale, Octoberfest beer festival, car and truck shows and other events drew 22,000 more people.
The analysis did not include some events, like the annual dog show, for which most participants camp out on the grounds, or private rentals for political rallies and other activities.
"Those people spend money in the village, too,” Romano said.
By analyzing ZIP codes, the study found 45 percent of those attending the county fair were not county residents — and other events during the year drew as many as 66 percent of their visitors from outside the county.
Camoin said its research showed people attending events like concerts and festivals treated the visit as a “destination event,” spending money on hotels, meals in restaurants, gas and other items. Sales and room taxes on that spending generated about $390,000 last year, according to the study.
“The ripple effect of non-fair events was much greater than we anticipated,” Townsend said.
The assumption, which Camoin said was based on other local studies and previous studies it has done for other fairgrounds, is that people staying in local lodging spend an average of $170 per day on food, entertainment and other purchases, including the lodging itself.
The fairground is owned and operated by the Saratoga County Agricultural Society, a nonprofit corporation that has run the fair in 1841.
Townsend said the non-fair events — there were 26 in all last year — provide the agricultural society with revenue to support its core missions of supporting the county fair and promoting local agriculture. The fairground has a $1 million budget and is almost entirely self-supporting.
The 173rd annual fair will take place July 22-27.