Last year’s storm, losses prompt Heritage Fair changes
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 14:46

Ticket prices to increase after revenue declines

by Nicole Rodman

    For many, Dundalk’s multi-day Independence Day celebration is one of the community’s defining events.
    And, while the Heritage Fair, Independence Day parade and fireworks occur each year, sometimes things do go wrong.
    Last year, many things went wrong, as a strong storm ripped through on the fair’s first night, leaving massive damage in its wake.

    Wreaking havoc and dampening ticket sales, the storm led to large losses in revenue for the non-profit Dundalk Heritage Fair Association.
    Relying solely on fair ticket sales and donations, the Heritage Fair Association funds not only the fair, but the parade and fireworks as well.
    With an estimated loss of $90,000 due primarily to last year’s storm, the Association was forced to contemplate some changes.
    One of the biggest changes coming to this year’s Heritage Fair, scheduled for Friday, June 28, through Sunday, June 30, will be a rise in ticket prices from $5 to $7.
    According to Dundak Heritage Fair Association president Joe Falbo, the $2 increase is the first rise in ticket prices in at least 6 years, when the price went up from $4 to $5.
    Tickets for children ages 12 and under will remain free.
    While the decision to raise ticket prices did not come easily, Falbo explained that it is the only way to maintain the fair, parade and fireworks at their current quality.
    “Everyone seems to like the entertainment the last few years,” he said. “It’s the only way we can afford to do it.”
    According to Falbo, last year’s losses were due to the large storm that ripped through the area on Friday night of the fair.
    Falbo and his crew worked throughout Friday night and into Saturday to repair damage and reopen the fair.
    In the wake of the powerful storm, Falbo noted, more than 60 vendor tents were destroyed, ATMs and sound equipment were ruined, electricity was lost and the entire ticket booth was flipped over.
    By renting generators (BGE was unable to restore power to the fair on Saturday due to massive outages across the region) and working for hours, the fair finally opened to the public at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
    While the fair did re-open, many vendors had left and there was no ice available on the fairgrounds.
    Because of the lack of ice, sales at the beer garden suffered, leading to more lost revenue.
    In the wake of Friday’s storm, ticket sales were down on both Saturday and Sunday.
    While big-name acts like Joan Jett did draw crowds of 7,000 to 9,000, it was not enough to overcome the losses.
    According to Falbo, each year, the fair must take in about $250,000 in order to break even.
    Any additional funds are poured back into the next year’s festivities.
    While the Bucket Brigade collects donations during the parade, the vast majority of the funding for the fair, parade and fireworks comes from Heritage Fair ticket sales.
    And there are many large expenses for all three events.
    Well-known acts, such as this year’s headliners Three Dog Night and Jefferson Starship, command $40,000 or more for a single performance.
    Ticket sales even pay for the fireworks — a cost that runs well into tens of thousands of dollars.
    Contrary to widely-held belief, Baltimore County does not organize or pay for the fireworks; the entire cost falls to the Heritage Fair Association.
    While Falbo noted that the Association did scale back on entertainment this year to cut costs, with last year’s losses it was not enough to avoid raising ticket prices.
    Additional costs most people don’t consider when visiting the fair include the cost of renting tents, trailers and portable toilets, as well as such costs as permit fees and replacement fencing.
    While ticket prices will go up, fairgoers will get more bang for their buck when it comes to rides.
    In years past, customers had to purchase  a $20 wristband (available on Friday night only) or individual tickets to get on rides.
    This year, using a coupon to be available in The Eagle and on the Heritage Fair Association website, riders will be able to purchase a wristband (available all three days) for $15. The band will be good for unlimited rides all three days up to 5:30 p.m.
    In order to control long lines, after 5:30 p.m., rides will be available by purchasing tickets.
    While Falbo and the rest of the Heritage Fair Association spend the remainder of the year planning the Independence Day festivities, they are all volunteers.
    No one, Falbo emphasized, gets paid for their efforts to bring the multi-day celebration to Dundalk.
    As Falbo noted, the move to raise ticket prices is simply necessary to bring the best fireworks and fair, as well as the “best parade in the country,” to the people of Dundalk.
    And Falbo does note that, with the latest rise in ticket prices, there will likely not be another increase for a number of years.
    And, while some may worry about the impact that the impending North Point Government Center sale may have on fireworks, Falbo noted that the association has an alternate site available nearby to launch the display and that, for the viewing public, the change in location would not be noticeable.
    For more information about this year’s Heritage Fair, parade and fireworks, visit the web at www.dundalkheritagefair.com.