DEF board considers site for next Viewfinders Grand Prix

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Two issues are heating up following the Desert Empire Fair-grounds’ Board of Directors’ meeting Nov. 14 at the fair’s boardroom.

The first involves changes to the ongoing contract with the Viewfinders Motorcycle Club, which holds its annual two-day Viewfinders Grand Prix event at DEF’s arena.

This event brings business into the community in terms of local hotel lodging, restaurants and retail stores patronized by the motorcycle riders and their families and crew members.

While DEF wants to continue being home to this event, the issue has to do with maintenance of the arena.

“Once you have a motor event, it’s really hard to get the arena back into shape for the Gymkhana the next weekend,” said Mike Leming, CEO.

“It has to be in shape for the horses. And then the Desert Empire Fair is two weeks after the Viewfinders. That makes it extra hard to schedule and get the arena back in shape for those two events.”

Apparently, the proposal from the DEF is that the Viewfinders can use other DEF property areas, but not the arena. One opinion expressed by the Viewfinders is that the loss of the arena will degrade the event and cause it to lose its appeal to participants.

“Lots of people showed up at the meeting to support the Viewfinders. It was the main point of contention,” said Leming. “The Viewfinders want to continue to use the arena, but we can’t maintain it properly for the horses afterward. We gave them a verbal proposal, and they’re digesting that.”

The other issue involves the contract for the beer and wine concessions by the Friends of the Fair.

“Every year, we have to relook at all of our contracts,” said Leming. “We have to come together as far as the timing of payouts. There’s never been a clear schedule of when those are to be made, so we have to work something out. What we get is a percentage of their sales, and the Friends of the Fair contribute to improving our fair-grounds.

“They don’t have a contract with any distributor. They can sell any beer they want to. We made a proposal to send out bid proposals. We kicked it around, but the board said if we can get a payout on time, we’re OK with that.”

According to Kathy Armstrong, longtime member of the Friends of the Fair, there is a longstanding agreement with a particular distributor and a specific formula regarding payments to DEF.

“Nonprofit incorporation rules say we can promote the DEF, but there’s no place in the rules that says we can just give them money. The contract for beer sales is different,” said Armstrong.

“They get $75 for each keg when it’s first opened. They make about $1,000 during the course of the fair each year from that. The company gives DEF $2,500 when they sign the contract.”

She said the concern of the Friends of the Fair was that DEF was changing the contract in an effort to get a larger share of the proceeds, a change the Friends could not agree with.

Discussion of these issues by all sides continues.

Another much less controversial issue involves the possible rescheduling of the Junior Livestock Auction, which was held this year the same time as the rodeo. Participants complained that the auction was under-attended.

The DEF Board is proposing to shift the auction from Saturday to Sunday evening in hopes of increasing attendance.

Story First Published: 2013-11-27