The two biggest annual events held at Deseret Peak Complex recently ended and showed Tooele County is attracting more visitors and doing a better job of making them feel welcome — and hopefully inclined to drop more cash into the local economy.
Greater attendance at both events also showed that increased marketing, and finished and pending venue improvements at Desert Peak, may be making a difference.
The first event is the 2019 Tooele County Fair, which came to a close Saturday night after three days of fair-related events, including the 71st annual Tooele County Junior Livestock Show and Sale.
Themed “Red, White and Moo,” this year’s fair featured old-fashioned Americana activities, displays and contests for the entire family, along with a variety of entertainers on stage.
But the fair’s marquee events was Friday night’s concert that featured rising local country singer Carver Louis and country songwriter and performing artist Phil Vassar. Vassar has charted 19 hit singles, two of which made it to No. 1.
Also held that night, and the biggest audience draw of all, was the “Punishment at the Peak” demolition derby. Spectators filled the stands in the outdoor arena to watch drivers in fortified jalopies crash into one another for a trophy, cash and bragging rights. Because of the derby’s popularity, a second round of action was held Saturday night, which doubled the fun for spectators.
What perhaps helped boost attendance at the fair and derby was a $40,000 tourism tax grant approved by the Tooele County Commission last May. Of that amount, $25,000 was earmarked for buying additional outdoor bleachers, up to $5,000 in prize money for the demolition derby, and up to $10,000 for out-of-county advertising.
The second event is the fourth annual Country Fan Fest, which was also held at Desert Peak July 25-28. The four-day country music festival featured 18 groups, including Rodney Atkins, Brett Young and Luke Combs.
For another year, Fan Fest reportedly had more spectators walk through the gate. The campground at Deseret Peak had over 6,000 people, over 10,000 spectators attended July 26 and over 12,000 attended July 27 to hear Combs, according to the festival’s director. With several awards and hits to his name, Combs is considered to be the greatest country western performer since Johnny Cash.
To get big country western stars to Tooele County takes planning, promotion, commitment and cash. The county commission last November approved a $1.7 million tourism grant to be divided over the next four years to make Deseret Peak a more viable concert venue, and to help Country Fan Fest to continue to grow and attract more visitors.
The fair’s demolition derby and Country Fan Fest are both major players in drawing visitors to the county. Both take enormous planning and work to be successfully held, and organizers, staff and volunteers are thanked for their service.
Kudos also to the County Commission for advancing both events in hope of boosting visitor numbers and dollars into the local economy. Time will tell if the extra tourism tax grants committed to those areas result in a worthwhile return on investment.