The Vermont State Fair will close with a multi-band benefit concert this year, and the fair president said he wants similar concerts to become the hallmark of the fair’s annual final day.
“That’s my goal — to make the last day of our fair the highest-attendance day of the fair,” Don Chioffi said. “When it comes to running fairs, there’s really only one thing that counts, and that’s gate. If you get your gate up, all boats float higher.”
Chioffi also said hosting a benefit should advance the effort of improving the fair’s image — an effort he has been making since taking over the beleaguered Rutland County Agricultural Society, which operates the fair. He said he had heard criticism that the fair has not done enough to give back to the community.
So profits from the concert will go to drug interdiction and recovery efforts. The exact organizations that will receive the money, Chioffi said, will be determined by the organizers in consultation with the mayor’s and governor’s offices.
He said the organization is chipping away at its deficit, paying off another $27,000 in largely overdue bills at its last meeting.
A forensic audit of the organization’s books — undertaken after the revelation of more than $100,000 in debts, leading to the removal of previous president and fair manager Richard Rivers — is complete and will be presented to the members at a special meeting to be announced.
“We have nothing to hide,” Chioffi said. “We have nothing to hide other than normal, fiduciary attorney-client-type info that we just can’t have out there. We’re trying to run it in a businesslike manner, a more forthright manner.”
For the benefit concert, Chioffi worked with music producer Kevin Declue, based in California but a Rutland native, on assembling a lineup of local and national talent.
Locally, they pulled in Joey Leone’s Chop Shop along with Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck. Nationally, they recruited the Nashville-based Jeremy Graham Band and Ashley Buchart. Chioffi said all the acts fall into the country-bluegrass genre.
Tickets will be $10 and entitle holders to half-price gate tickets, for a total cost of $15.
Gov. Peter Shumlin is also expected to be on hand that day, kicking off the concert with a brief speech.
Chioffi said he also hopes to rearrange the schedule so the governor can give out the main 4-H award for youth achievements in agricultural categories earlier during the fair’s 10-day run from Aug. 29 to Sept. 7.
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