Though I like the idea of smaller no frills races. It seems that locally, those are not the races that draw better competition. The few times that I have run a truly no frills race, I have ended up running solo from the start. One of those races is no more. Another I will probably give another chance as it appears that in other years there have been some faster runners show up.
Locally, I have noticed that we're actually getting some positive return on the higher race fees. For 5Ks, the price seems to have stabilized around $25. It's probably about $10 higher than I would prefer, but since 2008, it seems that local race management has improved. At that time, a new management company emerged and by paying attention to details they simply out performed other race directors or management companies and quickly expanded their share of the race management market. Other race managers took notice and have improved their performance as well such that Kansas City area runners are now better served than they were before. Generally, these events fall somewhere between the large group workout parties and the bare bones races. Sometimes they might have some elements of the larger events, but mostly the frills are minimal — excellent overall organization and execution, chip timing, and a DJ.
On the frills side, I did run an UltraMax event recently. They offered a lot of frills, but they still managed to focus on the competition more so than most other events do. I suppose I will post more about that in a race report.