Expo Center Busy With Bookings

Workers are getting ready for a huge concert at the Nacogdoches County Expo Center. This time tomorrow thousands of fans will be waiting to see country western entertainer Dierks Bentley take the stage. This event and other bookings bring in revenue to Nacogdoches County.

This concert is drawing a bigger crowd to the expo center than last year's Pat Green performance. Expo Director Bill Plunkett said, "With Pat Green we had 5000 to 5600 people and yesterday morning we already sold 4500 pre sale for Bentley, so we're expecting 7-8000 people."

The expo has had its share of big stars, but only until recently has the interest been so positive. Plunkett said, "In years past when things have gone not as good as they should and you gain everybody's confidence back then the bigger entertainers start looking at your venue scene and that, yes, you can do these kind of things and come in."

Even if you're not a country music fan you can appreciate how expo events generate tax dollars with the sale of lodging, gasoline and food. Most years the events generate more than 80% of the operating expenses. One reason when profits fall short the Nacogdoches County Commissioners help out from the general fund. Also the budget allows for needed upkeep. This year ongoing improvements are underway at the Nacogdoches expo. They include reworking the midway driveway parking lot paving and arena rail painting.

Plunkett is already booking into 2007. He gives his staff of five credit for adjusting rapidly to the wide variety of events. "You transition from a garage sale one weekend to horse people one weekend to next you have a concert and they're able to adapt to all these different changes and meet the goals of what the different event coordinators have."

Plunkett also depends on volunteer help. Helping out with parking at the expo center will be the newly formed Nacogdoches County Mounted Patrol. The horse patrol is only about 3 months old. Co-founder Mike Spiers explained, "When people get to a large event they're looking for an authority figure and if you have someone on horseback that just an immediate authority figure."

You can expect to see patrol members not only in the parking lot, but eventually in the arena performing drills at special events. Co-founder Alton Persons said, "It takes a lot of practice. We really don't expect any drills before next year because it will take us that long to put everybody together and run right because we want to be good when we come out." In exchange for their help the Nacogdoches County Mounted Patrol is given free arena time. You can watch them practice every Tuesday night at the Nacogdoches Expo Center.