Nashville contractor will produce state fair with no racing season

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 5:06pm

The Metro Fair Board and fairgrounds staff has tapped Nashville-based Rockhouse Partners to produce a 2010 state fair, while deciding not to hold a racing series at the facility’s racetrack.

Scheduled Sept. 10-19, the state fair will be co-operated by North American Midway Entertainment, which served as the vendor for last year’s state fair. Parties have reached a one-year contract. Rockhouse was chosen over three others who had vied to put on the state fair.

“We’ve looked at the tradition, and the opportunity, and the folks who have been involved with the state fair over the years,” Rockhouse co-founder Joe Kustelski said. “We’ve also looked at the interest from the community, and quite frankly we see a tremendous opportunity to keep the state fair going in 2010.”

Rockhouse is a technology-based entertainment agency that focuses on program creation, management and measurement, according to the company’s website.

Kustelski said the hope is to continue some of the recent state fair traditions, which have included a focus on green-energy and education. He said the 2010 state fair will also feature a musical component, but said he couldn’t elaborate.

This year’s fair will likely be the last one held at the 117-acre Nolensville Pike property, as Mayor Karl Dean has said he would like to explore redevelopment possibilities. Last week, he assigned a task force to explore the fairgrounds’ future.

“Having a private entity continue the state fair for one more year at no cost to the city is a good use of the site while we take this time to consider the long-term options that will best serve the surrounding community and our city as a whole,” Dean said in a written statement.

Though the state fair will carry on for one more year, the fairgrounds racetrack will not be used for traditional racing events. Instead, fairgrounds officials plan to work with two companies — Fastrax Entertainment and ABC Corp. — to book other events for the stadium.

“It was determined that the traditional five-or-six-month-long weekly race season was simply not financially feasible,” said Buck Dozier, executive director of the fairgrounds. “However, the 14,000-seat grandstand and the ancillary areas, including the track, can and should be utilized for other events for the remainder of 2010.”

11 Comments on this post:

By: lisaleeds2008 on 3/9/10 at 4:30

I have news for you all this not going to fix the problem. The question I would like ask is who is making the money here I can see it is not the fairgrounds.

And if you think for one min you are going to get off not on your life. And the other thing I think there is some real inside deals going on here. It says in Chapter 515 that you are to have a fair 6 days out of the year on that piece of property for ever.

And other thing where does the Mayor have the say in what gos on over at the fairgrounds it is not his property it belongs to the people of the city.

By: lisaleeds2008 on 3/9/10 at 4:54

The 2010 Tennessee State Fair is set Sept. 10-19, at the Nashville fairgrounds. It will be the last state fair held at the Nolensville Road location.

Bet me.

By: 117_acres on 3/9/10 at 6:59

Good luck to Rockhouse. Thank you Mayor Dean, fair board and, Mr. Buck Dozier for not continuing the weekly racing series. If there are races at the fairgrounds this year I hope that it is something that is profitable for the city and not just a nuisance for the nearby residents. I also hope that Rockhouse can find another home for the fair at another location within Davidson County. However, I believe the City is doing the right thing by exploring the opportunities of future development at the fairgrounds. This area of South Nashville deserves some much needed attention. The City and other rationale residents understand you can do a fair and expo events at another location and perhaps it will be a better location on a flat piece of property with more acreage in a more rural part of the County.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/10/10 at 9:00


By: lisaleeds2008 on 3/10/10 at 9:42

Chrysty was the person that put on the fair last year. I my self think there is some insider trading going on here. From what I understand Chrysty is still on the payroll at the fairgrounds. and this should be conflict of interest and to what I can see it is. and if you read Who and what makes the money not the fairgrounds.

And if they think this is going to end all this not on your live. There 27,000 sigs out there to keep the Fairgrounds right where it is.

By: lisaleeds2008 on 3/10/10 at 9:56


You think you win bet me not. There are still laws written in the Charter out there and people getting sigs. and it is not over yet. We the people have the say on what happens to the fairgrounds not just 5 people. and as for your task force where are the people in that task force it looks to me it is all Metro people. and will not do any favs for anyone. Truth is you will not get your CONDOS.

By: lisaleeds2008 on 3/10/10 at 3:07

Let's look at the "Rockhouse" organization selected to operate the 2010 State Fair.

It's a company apparently put together to bid on the State Fair operation.

One of the four partners in this company is Chrysty Fortner, currently the Marketing Director employed by the fairgrounds. That in itself should be a red flag, but let's look a bit closer at Ms. Fortner.

She was plucked from year-long unemployment in October 2008 for her position at the fairgrounds. She was hired by Buck Dozier for this newly created position as the only candidate for the job. This was apparently an unadvertised position and did not seek out canditates to apply.

Her main task in this job seems to have been co-ordination with the Memphis PR firm that was hired to actually do the promotions for the fair.

Her job was slated to be eliminated since it was announced that the fair would be closing, but at the last minute, the fair board stepped in and authorized her continued employment as a contrator in that position, even before it was announced that there would be a 2010 fair. Her current resume lists, in addition to Rockhouse, that she is still employed in this job.

Prior to her un-employment, Ms. Fortner spent 10 months as the "Grass Roots Campaign Manager" for Karl Dean's mayorial race. Wow. What a suprise!

Prior to that, she had been a banker at AmSouth Bank.

Now in most businesses, this would be considered shady at best, to allow an employee to create a company to take over the business. If this were a public corporation, this would be known as "insider trading" and is why Martha Stewart was sent to prison-- making business deals with the inside knowledge of your employer's operations.

But let's also look at the deal offered to the fairboard by Rockhouse, which can be found at

According to the proposal, Rockhouse is offering to pay the fair board $1.00 for the first 50,000 tickets sold, $.50 for the next 50,000 sold, and $.25 for all tickets above 100,000. For the 2009 fair season, this was estimated to be only $77,500 in "potential" revenue.

In addition, they propose a "Music Event" to be held in 2010. They estimate ticket sales at 25,000 (a good trick with a grandstand that only seats 14,000). So they estimate an additional $6,250 in payments to the fairboard.

These two estimates total less than $85,000 for the leasing of the entire 18-day event (extra time was added to the fair dates for set-up and take-down).

This proposal leaves the fairboard with the responsibility of furnishing the site and all of it's facilities-- including paying the utilities during the fair. It also gives Rockhouse the use of the name "Tennessee State Fair" and all other intellectual property owned by the fair board, as well as use of the fair's website.

Rockhouse would have the use of all fairgrounds equipment including, but not limited to forklifts, cattle gates, ticket booths, tables, chairs, etc. All fairgrounds employees would be assigned to Rockhouse during the event, although their salary would be covered by Rockhouse.

Currently, the fair operation brings in between $1.2 and $1.5 million.

So basically, we're looking at the fair board leasing out a million dollar operation for less than $.10 on the $1 -- actually about $.08 on the dollar!

What business in it's right mind would strike such a deal, and especially with an employee, a former employee of the mayor? Maybe there are some back-door deals not included in the proposal that would sweeten the deal, but it would have to be something really special.

Considering that the fair board must still pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the property year-round, as well as water, electric, gas and other utility expenses, this looks like it's being leased at a loss!

It would be more cost-effective for the fair board to continue business-as-usual, and if a loss was incurred, it would probably be less than the loss on this proposal, and could be taken out of the reserve funds. At least there would be a *chance* at making a profit, whereas this proposal pretty much guarantees a loss, with all profits going to a fair board employee's company, whose former employer is the mayor.

By: VeryDisgusted on 3/10/10 at 5:02

This dog and pony show put on by the mayor and Buck Dozier gives all of Nashville government a bad name. Dean and Dozier never had any intention of allowing the Fair to succeed. Hiring insiders already a part of the "good ole boy" network assures it.

Let's see, we hire insiders to ensure a guaranteed loss of profits on the fair and a huge profit for the insiders. Over a two week time period Metro will make $77,000 and when we did ran the fair ourselves we made $1.2 million. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell us that this is fuzzy math and a prescription for failure. What does the fairgrounds charge to rent the grounds for the Lawn and Garden Show? If Rich Riebling
approved this deal, he needs to be fired too.

It is time to bring in the TBI to investigate this one. Who do they think they are fooling? Dozier does exactly what Dizzy Dean tells him to do. The fair board does exactly what Dean tells them to do too.

Dozier has already been promised the job of Director of Emergency Services after he dismantles the fairgrounds. Dozier has always been dirty. Dean knew exactly who he needed to get the job done and Dozier knows the reward he will get in the end.

Wonder what dirt Dozier has on the mayor to get him into this position? It is time to investigate them both and to start the recall petition for Dean. The citizens can sign two petitions as easily as they can sign one.

By: idgaf on 3/10/10 at 9:14


By: JimmyF on 3/12/10 at 7:46

And all this name-calling is helping us save the fair how? I am afraid when we start picking anyone to fight with and we don't check our stories/facts, it shows inconsistency and hurts our the fight against someone trying to save the fair or is it against the fairgrounds closing down?

Pick one and stick to it...I don't I'm not real smart, but I don't see how any of this is helping us save our fair grounds. Stick to the fight for the fairgrounds people...and for goodness sake, support OUR state're losing your way...and it's not very flattering on our group!

We, THE OTHER people who support the fairgrounds...and the hopes of someone reviving the state fair are quite embarrassed by these accusations. Your comments and negativity are hurting our cause...people are starting to think we're those "crazy fairgrounds people!" I'm not crazy...I want to see this state fair happen and I for one will support it. Rally behind something positive and still fight the good fight to keep the fairgrounds alive, PLEASE!

By: MAmom on 2/13/11 at 9:03


We now know the lease was given to Rockhouse Partners for approx $100,000 AND the State Fair was a loss in 2010 (probably for the first time ever) because of the way it was handled... per design, of course.

Links to metro emails on the enclave blogspot expose more about this.

There are some 8/5/10 emails between Buck Dozier & Howell Townes about the State Fair deal with Rockhouse. The Fair Board TURNED DOWN a guaranteed minimum lease payment of $250,000 (with the potential for more) because Rockhouse was supposed to pay higher Ag exhibit prizes.

Then Rockhouse paid shockingly lower prize monies to exhibitors - an 80% reduction in money premiums from 2009 to 2010.

Buck Dozier's email says Rockhouse expected to get money from the Mayor for prizes. Sounds like Rockhouse had some kind of relationship or understanding with Dean.

Dozier also said that the agricultural community is not happy & it will be tough to get them back "in my judgment." More sabotage by Dean. Hurting the Ag community in 2010 & potentially alienating them from participating in State Fair activities in the future.

More sabotage by the Fair Board & Dean.