Editorials

Another great year for Benton Franklin Fair

Among the many things that make the Tri-Cities a special place -- regularly competing for the No. 1 spot, actually -- is the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo.

We've had another good year.

In fact, a terrific year.

We'll give the fair staff and the hundreds of volunteers top credit for that, but Mother Nature deserves some praise, too.

The sun may have been as hot West Richland amateur fireworks display, but it didn't rain. And the wind was manageable.

Crowds poured in, slowed a bit by a new computerized ticket system that took some getting used to, but that also made it possible, for the first time, for patrons to use credit cards at all the ticket windows.

The main stage featured a variety of well-known entertainers, touring the West for the season. After last year's problems with Ted Nugent's language, the fair management was especially carefully in its selection process.

The Rascal Rodeo for special needs youths and adults drew rave reviews from participants and friends.

And it was quite a crowd.

The official attendance this year was 115,664, only a slight drop-off from last year's 116,729.

The popular Dock Dogs were back this year.

It may be you've seen a Labrador retriever jump in the water before, but there's something about making a competition of it that just suits the kid in all of us.

The rodeo, too, was as exciting and entertaining as ever, with banged-up competitors having their try against bucking horses and thoroughly annoyed bulls.

It is a lot of entertainment for the price.

It should be noted, too, that for local service clubs, the fair is either their biggest or among their biggest money-makers for the year.

The fair management contracts with service clubs to handle ticket sales, parking, admissions and helping out with everything from the information booth to stamping your hands on the way out if you want to come back in.

Those clubs, in turn, assign their members as volunteers to handle the actual work.

The money then goes to providing scholarships or other gifts to those in need throughout the community.

Last year the four service groups with food concessions at the fair raised $139,095. The ervice groups, churches and other charitable organizations hired to work at the fair earned $38,553.

So when forking over your money, remember you're doing a lot of good for your community, besides paying the out-of-town entertainers.

We heard no real complaints about the fair this year but a couple of concerns do present themselves.

The new computer system for ticket sellers may give a better accounting, and being able to process credit cards at each window is a real convenience for fairgoers, but it does slow things down a bit. Clubs may want to have more ticket booths open next year to accommodate that.

And the fair board should look again at providing a special rate for active-duty military personnel. No one we saw was upset by the lack of a discount, but they clearly were surprised when they found none was available.

It must be a tough job, keeping a county (or two-county) fair fresh year after year.

We think the fair board and management are entitled to congratulations for outstanding work.

We'll include the editorial board's Lori Lancaster in this. She is the fair's manager and meets with us regularly, but played no role in writing this editorial.

Good job, everybody.

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