DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Eighteen-dollars is the price for a general admission ticket to the State Fair of Texas. By the time you buy a fried turkey leg and go on a few rides, you could quickly double your costs in a matter of minutes.
In 2015, the State Fair of Texas brought in more than $57 million in revenue, according to IRS tax records.
Where does all that money go?
The State Fair of Texas is an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Most of money goes towards the direct cost of putting on the 24-day event with more than $2 million going towards executive salaries.
According to tax records, the president of the State Fair of Texas earned more than $708,000 in 2015.
That is more than what the presidents of the Louisiana State Fair, Oklahoma State Fair, and Minnesota State Fair made in 2015.
In fact, it’s more than what all three of these state fair presidents made combined. However, none of those state fairs is as big as the State Fair of Texas.
A similar nonprofit event in Texas that generates more money than the State Fair is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
The Houston Rodeo roped in more than $123 million in 2015.
That’s more than twice the revenue generated by the State Fair, yet the president of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo made $130,000 less than his counterpart at the Fair.
The president of the State Fair of Texas is one of seven State Fair executives who make more than $200,000.
The State Fair says the big salaries are “within market norms” for such a big and successful nonprofit event.
In 2015, the State Fair handed out $1.2 million in college scholarships and had $6 million in “excess revenue” that was given to the City of Dallas.
According to its lease with the City of Dallas, all “excess revenue” from the State Fair is spent on improvements to Fair Park.
For the last 12 years, the State Fair has paid zero dollars in rent to the City of Dallas for the use of Fair Park. In return for the free rent, the Fair agreed to spend nearly $20 million to upgrade the Cotton Bowl, including buying a new high-definition video screen.
The State Fair will start paying rent once again starting next year.
The three-week event has a local economic impact of more than $600 million, according to Fair officials. That’s the same impact as hosting the Super Bowl.
However, a recent report by Baylor University researcher Tom Kelly, Ph.D. calculated the economic impact is closer to $50 million.
The Baylor study also notes attendance may not be as high as the State Fair’s stated estimate of 2.4 million people last year. The study stats it was probably closer to 1.5 million.
There are all numbers to chew on as you bite into your $5 Fletcher’s corny dog.