The State Fair's road from riches to ruins was not long.
It began with a big idea, move the State Fair from the Richmond International Raceway, 20 miles up 95 to the Meadow Event Park in Doswell. The thought was simple, there'd be more room to grow on this 331-acre site. It's a true place to call home that's designed for agricultural needs. This was the birthplace of Secretariat.
In 2007, the fair ponied up $45 million in an investment account to help repay future debt. It took on more than $75 million in bonds to pay for construction at Meadow Event Park. But that big idea collided with bad timing. The economy tanked. The stock market plummeted and that $45 million investment account took a huge hit.
The fair opened in Doswell in 2009 to a record crowd. 250,000 people visited, but the group was unable to make money. That year losses were tallied at $1.8 million.
Even as the economy worsened the fair failed to curb spending, taking out direct loans and lines of credit in 2008 and 2009. And according to the State Fair's own IRS tax records, people were still making huge salaries. The State Fair's president Curry A. Roberts compensation package was estimated at $278,000 in 2008. It was around $242,000 in 2009 and $234,000 in 2010.
Three other top executives also drew outsized salaries totaling more than $1.1 million between 2008 and 2010. By the time bankruptcy was filed late last year the fair was T80 million in debt.
"A lot of people fell on hard times during this recession. Certainly not isolated to individuals that maybe lost their house or even their business. I can even affect the state fair," said Mark Motley, the President of Motley's Auction and Realty Group, who is handling the auction.
Not only are the land, the buildings and ticket booths up for grabs, but even the State Fair brand and web site. A separate online auction will take care of the tractors, trucks, cars- any and all of the State Fair's personal property.
Motley believes the fair is not dead, this is its second coming. "I think the state fair is positioned in a perfect way for somebody to come in and reopen this and really to revitalize this entire property, said Motley.
We could will find out on Tuesday who will be the new owner and possibly if they plan to continue the tradition.
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