This article was originally published on the Idaho Statesman by Kyle Land.
Those attending the Western Idaho Fair this year can expect live music, carnival rides and longer lines than usual, thanks to the shortage of workers.
Expo Idaho Director Bob Batista, who’s working his 23rd year with the Western Idaho Fair, said the fair has unfilled positions across the board, including maintenance, parking and ticket sales. Organizers estimate they still have to fill 10% of the fair’s temporary positions; the fair typically hires between 500 and 600 workers, which doesn’t include those hired by private vendors.
“There’s going to be some lines here,” Batista said Wednesday by phone. “Everybody down here, as you see, is short-staffed.”
Many Boise-area businesses, like others around the country, have struggled to find and retain employees as local governments have eased COVID-19 restrictions in recent months, leading many to raise wages and offer bonuses to attract new workers.
That includes the fair, which Batista said has recently increased pay to combat the shortage. He declined to specify how much wages increased. The pay differs position to position, he said.
It’s not a problem exclusive to Idaho fairs. Summer fairs across the country have reported staff shortages, some of which have led to carnival rides being canceled. So far, the Western Idaho Fair has not announced any interruption to planned events or rides.
Expo Idaho has relied on Express Employment, a staffing agency with Treasure Valley locations, to staff the event. Express Employment Account Manager Rob Graham said in a Wednesday phone interview that the shortages are similar to those seen in other businesses and that they’re not especially severe.
“It’s something that all businesses across the Treasure Valley are certainly challenged with.” Graham said.
The fair typically draws around 250,000 people in total over 10 days, depending on the weather, Batista said. It will start this Friday, Aug. 20, and run through Sunday, Aug. 29, on the Expo Idaho grounds at 5610 N. Glenwood St. in Garden City.
Batista asked that those attending the fair be patient with wait times and long lines, and not take their frustrations out on the workers.
“You need to be kind and courteous,” he said. “We’re not going to tolerate mean and rude people.”