LANCASTER — Directors of the Antelope Valley Fair, warned they must "profit or perish" after losing money last year, have approved a $1 increase in admission prices for the popular festival, the first such hike in three years.
By an 8-1 vote Thursday, with board President Paul Whitson objecting, fair directors increased the adult admission price from $4 to $5, and the children's and senior citizens' price from $2 to $3, said fair General Manager Bruce Latta.
The decision came after Latta warned that the state-run fair can no longer rely on declining profits from its off-track horse-race betting operation to support the rest of the fair. Even with betting profits, the fair lost about $59,000 during 1992, Latta said.
The 11-day festival at the 80-acre Antelope Valley Fairgrounds in Lancaster, scheduled from Aug. 27 through Sept. 6, is one of the region's most popular and widely attended events. Last year's event had a paid attendance of 174,086, up 2.5% from 1991.
Latta predicted the price hike will not hurt attendance, citing other state fairs that have raised prices. He said the Sacramento County Fair held this month also increased admission by $1 but attendance rose by more than 25%.
Antelope Valley Fair officials said other fairs around the state have already priced tickets at or above the Antelope Valley Fair's new prices. The Del Mar Fair will cost $7 a day this year, Ventura County's will be $6 and Kern County's is recommended to be $6, according to a survey of ticket prices.
Latta, a former Azusa councilman and state fair manager who assumed the current job two months ago, told fair board members they had little choice on the increase.
"It's purely a business decision," he said. "Times are hard for us. It's profit or perish."
Historically, horse-race betting profits have helped cover the expenses of fairs such as Lancaster's. And the betting center at the Lancaster fair earned a profit of about $450,000 last year, fair officials said. But Latta warned the profit trend for horse racing is declining.
He blamed the recession, competing activities such as the lottery and bingo, and federal tax law changes. Profits from betting, which he called the fair's "golden goose," were less than $4,000 for January and February compared with nearly $39,000 for January and February of 1992.
Latta said the fair's grandstand concert series, which typically features well-known pop and country music performers, has lost money the past three years.