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10 Ways the Oklahoma State Fair helped (and hurt) the economy!

5:45 AM EDT on October 20, 2021

According to an article by KFOR, the 2021 Oklahoma State Fair allegedly contributed $103 million to the Oklahoma economy.

At least that's what the people who run the fair told us:

Officials with the Oklahoma State Fair say 900,000 people visited the state fair for new food, shows, competitions, rides, and more.

In all, 25% of visitors came from out-of-town for the event, while 75% of fairgoers were local.

As a result of the event, officials say the fair brought in $103 million in direct spending to the Oklahoma City economy.

So, basically, 75% of the $103-million was spent on the State Fair instead of on other things that impact the economy, like local restaurants and bars, retailers, etc. Isn't that a bit like robbing the world's smallest horse to pay a carnie?

While I wouldn’t doubt that my brethren (and myself) shelled out millions for fried food and tickets to rides to throw it all up on, I think the financial benefits and implications of the State Fair is a little more complicated than that.

Here are 10 ways the Oklahoma State Fair helps and hurts the economy...

What Helps the Oklahoma Economy: The Fair's Financial Statements 

It was also reported that the State Fair brought in $103 million to the Oklahoma economy...in 2019. I am sure that having the exact same economic impact (and number of visitors) being reported two fairs in a row is not suspicious at all. No need to fact check the people who provided this information. Move along.

What Hurts the Oklahoma Economy: The Fair Food Ain't Fair

Unless we have an esteemed senator who secretly invested in Tums or Pepto stock in August, Oklahomans probably didn't benefit all that much from that $103 million. Being that 75% of fair goers are locals, that's a whole bunch of folks who are eating Dole Whip and non-Sonic corndogs at the expense of local restaurateurs who aren’t cool enough to have a food truck parked at the Fair on a hot September day.

What Helps the Oklahoma Economy: The Patio Tent Beer Industry

The State Fair closes around 9:00/10:00 PM, but Oklahoma alcohol sales continue until 2:00 AM. The early closing of the Patio beer tents leads to the opening of at least a dozen drunken carnivals in the parking lots of surrounding bars, funneling money into the local economy quicker than cheap low-point at a tailgate.

What Hurts the Oklahoma Economy: the Watonga Cheese Curd Factory Siphoning Money to Texas

Since the Watonga Cheese Curd Factory is now located in Perryton, every fried Watonga cheese curd you buy from the Watonga Cheese Curd stand makes Texas stronger. Someone needs to make a propaganda poster to warn the public.

What Helps the Oklahoma Economy: Teaching Kids How to Gamble

The carnival games may not immediately contribute to the Oklahoma economy, but the knockoff Hello Kitty the kids win will instill a sense of elation and thrill that will be further sought after through playing the Oklahoma lottery in 10-15 years. It’s a long game.

What Hurts the Oklahoma Economy: The Goddam Oak Ridge Boys Are at it Again

God help the local Oklahoma music scene when the Oak Ridge Boys are set to perform on the Chickasaw Country Music Stage. It doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell against that kind of entertainment.

What Helps the Oklahoma Economy: The Indoor Flea Market Exhibit Halls

When I went to the Fair last month, an Edmond small business owner selling comic books on the rapture and wooden weapons said I looked like I was old enough to shoot my first crossbow. That kind of salesmenship is the backbone of the Oklahoma economy.

What Hurts the Oklahoma Economy: Mickey Mouse

Every $40 that is spent on one of those goddang officially licensed Little Mermaid spinning light-up electronic bubble wands is $40 that is not spent at a local Oklahoma business’s exhibit hall booth selling slingshots and novelty pot leaf flags.

What Helps the Oklahoma Economy: Hot Tub Dealers

As evidenced by how many hot tub dealers line the exhibit hall and pitch tents along Gordon Cooper Boulevard, a Venn diagram of fried turkey leg enthusiasts and Oklahomans who can afford an $8,000 outdoor tub is a perfect circle.

What Hurts the Oklahoma Economy: Oklahomans Neglecting Their First Love for Some Cheap Thrill

Ever since Frontier City lost the Terrible Twister ride over a decade ago, it has not been able to keep up with the Centrifuge Thrill Ride of the Oklahoma State Fair. It’s a sad day when Oklahomans would rather drop $70 on tickets for the kids to ride traveling carnival rides from a Michigan company than pay $70 to wait in line for the local Diamond Back before it breaks down for the rest of the weekend.

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Hayley went to the State Fair and live to tell about it. Follow her on twitter @squirrellygeek and become a contributing member of TLO here.

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