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  • Paid Admission Increases for Colorado State Fair
    Despite a drop in attendance, the Colorado State Fair had a successful year. A combination of popular entertainers, delicious food, educational exhibits, and a great midway kept customers happy and entertained according to fair general manager, Sarah Cummings.
    This year, the Colorado State Fair drew a crowd of 466,576. This is a 7.5% decrease from the 2015 fair; However, this number is comparable to the fair's five year attendance average. "Although attendance decreased, our paid admission was up 4% and our attendance is consistent with our 5 year average of 488,000 people" says Cummings. Regular gate price at the Colorado State Fair is $7 on the weekdays and $10 on the weekends, but the fair provides several admission specials to help make the fair more affordable. For the first time, the Colorado State Fair implemented a seniors discount; seniors could get into the fair for $2 any day. Additionally, the fair offered a back to school promotion on the two Fridays of the fair; children got in for free. The fair also features a Magic Mega Pass; this pass is $98 and is good for unlimited rides every day of the fair. The Mega Pass was sponsored by Magic Radio in Colorado. According to Cummings, the fair's family packs are always a huge hit. Families can buy a four pack of drinks, food, and admission for $50 or a four pack of drinks, food, admission, and unlimited carnival rides for $150. Perhaps one of the most unique features of the Colorado State Fair is their sneak peak day. Customers can pay $15 and ride unlimited carnival rides on the day before the fair opens. The Colorado State Fair's admission specials contributed to their increase in paid admission from 2015 to 2016.

    Six nights of the fair, there are concerts and rodeos on the main stages: the grandstand and the event center. The Colorado State Fair features four different rodeos: RPCA Ram Rodeo, Ranch Rodeo, Celebration De Los Charro, and Wrangler Champions Challenge Rodeo. The rodeos take place in the event center and always draw a big crowd; "People really look forward to the rodeos and they always draw large crowds. The fair offers ticket packages for rodeos and concerts so people have lots of options for entertainment" says Cummings. Some of the headliner entertainment at the Colorado State Fair included: Chris Janson, Huey Lewis, Lee Brice, Foreigner, and Vanilla Ice. Just like many other state fair across the country, Cummings noticed that it is more difficult to book headliner acts on the fair's entertainment budget than it has been before. "We definitely have to work a little bit harder to book entertainers who will pull large crowds but I'm happy with how we did this year" says Cummings. The Colorado State Fair works with a $600,000 entertainment budget. 

    In addition to main stage entertainment, the Colorado State Fair hosted many ground acts and strolling performers. A few of the most popular entertainers were the sea lion splash show, fables of the west show, laser tag, and pole vaulting exhibitions from local schools. Rare events like laser tag and pole vaulting drew big crowds and Cummings says that the fair is interested in having entertainment like that at the fair in the future.  
    The Colorado State Fair's midway partner was Crabtree Amusements. Crabtree brought 52 rides to the state fair including some crowd favorites: the Giant Wheel, the Power Booster, and the Pole Position. Pat Crabtree, owner of Crabtree Amusements, was very happy with their run this year; "the fair started off down, mostly due to the threat of bad weather, but we ended with a record run", he said.

    The Colorado State Fair is a division of Colorado Department of Agriculture; therefore, the fair always has a strong agricultural presence. The fair always features an agricultural pavilion, which features many interactive, educational exhibits for kids and adults alike. 

    The pavilion featured a petting zoo, pony rides, a junior livestock sale, livestock shows, and a Milking Bessie booth. The new Milking Bessie booth allowed children to learn how to properly milk a cow and was very popular with fairgoers according to Cummings. Local 4H and FFA groups host and manage the junior livestock shows and sales. Many young people in the community are actively engaged in the 4H and FFA programs, bringing many families out to the Colorado State Fair. 

    Of course, the fair has plenty of delicious and unique foods available for customers. Perhaps the most popular item, which is unique to the Colorado State Fair, is Indian Fry Bread; "I had never heard of it before moving to Colorado in January but it is absolutely delicious. People travel to the fair specifically for this bread" Cummings added. Some other popular stands are Backyard BBQ, Tony's Concessions, and Pueblo Chili. Food is certainly an important part of the Colorado State Fair atmosphere; Cummings says that there was plenty of food stands for fairgoers to enjoy and the vendors were happy with the crowd turnout. 

    Overall, the Colorado State Fair works with an advertising and marketing budget of $515,800. This budget includes production, web-hosting, promotional signs and talent. The $465,588 advertising budget covers a media mix of print, radio, television, and social media. About 13% was spent on print, 40% on radio, 42% on television, and 5% on social media. This media mix works well for the fair and results in crowds coming from all over the state. The Colorado State Fair operates on a total budget of $1.8 million. 

    Although there was a drop in attendance, the Colorado State Fair certainly had a successful year. Happy vendors and fair partners and thoroughly entertained customers left the Colorado State Fair in a great place for their 2017 run. 

  • Full Fair Feel: New Mexico State Fair Sees 8 Percent Attendance Jump
    New Mexico has a population of about two million. Nearly 500,000 attended this year's New Mexico State Fair, a booming, robust event that saw an 8 percent attendance increase, the sophomore year for a new midway provider, a partnership with Uber, reinvigorated free entertainment content and more effective entertainment booking.

    The achievement of this year's fair especially the attendance -- 497,036 -  a figure made even more remarkable because the population of New Mexico is about 2 million. In other words, about a quarter of a the state's residents attended the state fair this year. 

    "Our fair did very well this year," said Dan Mourning, General Manager. "When you consider the high percentage that is of New Mexican who come to the fair, it's huge in a state of 2 million that is roughly half the size of Texas."

    He added, "our goal was to reach a total attendance of 500,000.  We were just shy of that goal, likely due to several fairly significant weather events, two of which occurred over the weekend.  Overall, we were very pleased with this year's fair. "Patrons seemed to be spending money at the fair, with the many vendors reporting increased sales over previous years.

    The weather events were torrential rain that passed through the area, but otherwise "it was perfect fair weather." 

    The fair increased overall attendance of about 8 percent over last year's numbers. This year's fair was attended by 497,036 people, as compared to last year's total attendance of 460,468.  Paid attendance surpassed last year's total number with 423,095 attending as compared to 414,932 people in 2015.

    Full Fair Feel
    Like most fairs,  the New Mexico State Fair did not have one factor that can be singled out as the main reason to attend. "We had a very full fair feel with spectacular entertainment throughout the fair," he said. "You pay your admission, and you know that you will be thrilled. We added more free entertainment."

    This full fair feel was made up of new entertainment that included Ma'Ceo Circus by Cavallo, a European Circus act; Aussie Kingdom, an interactive exhibition of the Australian Outback Great American Cowboy Boot Camp, an interactive and educational western lifestyle exhibit, Duck Race, a waterfowl competition; and Xpogo Stunt Team and favorite returning acts included Dock Dogs, a canine Aquatics Competition and Magician Sheldon Casavant.

    The Duck Races, the magnification and the circus, which he aptly described as an "old style gypsy circus with the top acrobats in the world," were tremendously popular," Mourning said. "You want to try something new. It was a very exciting fair, and you want the people who come to move around the fair, to stay longer and find something exciting."

    The fair also became the first large New Mexico event to partner with Uber,  which not only included a price arrangement but a new Uber Lounge and dedicated gate for Uber transported fairgoers. This high-profile deal that also appealed to contemporary transportation preferences, was part of an overall plan to  improve the transportation infrastructure of the fair.  "We had more than 4,000 fairgoers come to the fair via Uber this year. The lounge gave them a comfortable place to wait. We worked with our city so there would be a bus service to the fair, and we had an open air tram that took people from overflow lots, which had free parking, to the fairground."

    In addition, the New Mexico State Fair again is partnered with BikeABQ for a bike valet and an increasing number of fairgoers biked to this year's event, and ABQ RIDE, the Albuquerque mass transit system,  ABQ RIDE operated four bus routes, including two Rapid Rides which provided a direct ride to the fair.

    Reithoffer Shows
    This was the second year of Reithoffer Shows' multi-year contract as the state fair midway operator. The midway featured 50 rides, with a new addition of the kid's favorite, the Wacky Mouse Coaster. The most popular rides were The Gentle Giant Wheel, Super Himalaya, and Flipper, Mourning said. Revenues were up over 2015, he said but did not have available figures. The new midway promotion this year were all-day ride wrist bands every day, including weekends (last year wrist bands could only be purchased on weekdays).

    "I  guarantee with all the LED lights they you use, you could see the midway from space," said Mourning. "They create a very festive atmosphere, that is really the heart of the fair."

    Mourning pointed put out that the games were very popular this year. "I watched how people spend their money, and they go right to the games and the games pay off. People loved the games, although to my chagrin the most popular plush prize seemed to the Poop Hat Emoji."

    He added, "Reithoffer invests $25,000 into the fair's infrastructure each year.  This year that money was dedicated to improved trenching.  The state fair invested into improved fiber capacity which resulted in much reduced lines and speedy turnaround at the kiosks to purchase ride tickets. We had consistent power. Reithoffer also had a mobile app this year, which was a great tool for fair goers." 

    Thrill All Your Senses
    The fair's advertising budget was $220,000, with a media mix of 37 percent TV, 8 percent Digital; 4 percent Print and 32 percent terrestrial radio; and 19 percent outdoor. The marketing tagline was "Thrill for All Your Senses," echoing Mourning's initiative to create the full fair feel."

    One of the highpoints for the highly extroverted Mourning was the discovery of Facebook Live. Not a big social media user, the marketing department convinced him to do some videos as talking about the fair, and a star was born. "I had passion for the fair and I love talking about it on Facebook," he said. "I can't wait to do more of this next year." 

    The entertainment this year had a sellout show for Dwight Yokum as a headliner, as well as  strong sales for 38 Special, Tracy Lawrence and Neal McCoy. The concerts were all part of the PRCA Rodeo, and Mourning felt they were effective components of the fair. "It was a good show and it was ridiculous how well he was received," he said. "Neal McCoy was an amazing entertainer, there was a tremendous buzz about his show. Sales really took."

    Mourning remains committed to the entertainment at the fair. Although realistic about the difficulties about the competition "we are surrounded by five casinos, and they've inflated the market. It's difficult to find the good acts for the fair."

    But, finding the good acts he credits to a strong negotiating headed by industry superstar, Barbara (Mother) Hubbard, who was awarded the Poll Star Honors Award for lifetime achievement last year (the first ever bestowed). "We had a strong negotiator in our contract negotiations with Barbara, which resulted in the acquisition of great talent at good values to the fair. She is a legend in the music industry, and negotiated great pricing. The Dwight Yokum booking came close to not happening."

    Mourning doesn't disagree that it's a sellers market when it comes to booking fair entertainment, but it just takes more effort to make it work. "You need the strong negotiator, as well as looking into the routing and making artists offer. The PRCA is a drawing crowd, but we are looking at bringing in some stand alone concerts, not reinventing the wheel but tweaking it. We're not looking for a big change. Concerts are not the draw they used to be for a fair." 

    What pushed the sales for the concerts adding to this year's success were social media promotions. "This year we did a number of giveaways of rodeo and concert tickets, starting in February," he said. " We believe this gave us early momentum for concert sales, and extended our outreach well beyond our usual followers." 

    Chile & Bacon 
    The fair featured 85 food vendors, with the hot food using the new gastro-pub trend of unusual food combinations and adding the new fair favorite, bacon - the Green Chile Maple Bacon Mini Donuts. "New Mexico is known for our green chiles, and this was a very popular food item. 

    Opening day of the fair showcased a Unique Foods Contest , reflecting the adventurous palates of New Mexicans. Unique cuisines included the New Mexico Green Chile Peanut Brittle; Bacon Wrapped Green Chile Cheeseburger; Deep Fried Steak Fajita; Foot Long Deep Fried Bacon Enchilada Dog; Lobster Roll, Smothered and Covered Chicken Nuggets and of course, Green Chile Maple Bacon Mini Donuts.  

    "The Unique Foods Contest has been cited as one of the reasons we are ranked among the top fairs in the country, and has allowed us to gain national recognition for our exceptional food," said Mourning. "Our unique food options are so popular that we have been contacted by national travel and food networks eager to come to New Mexico to sample and feature our delicious food."
    Reportedly, The Travel Channel's "Food Paradise," will feature New Mexico State Fair foods in an upcoming episode filmed at this year's fair.

  • Overcoming Heat & Volatile Farm Economy, Missouri State Fair Continues Upward Trend
    In spite of some high heat - not exactly uncommon late summer weather in this part of the U.S. - the Missouri State Fair saw an attendance increase of about 4,000, reaching 356,000, with three record admission days, according to Mark Wolfe, State Fair Director. 

    Wolfe pointed out that the fair doesn't have hard numbers yet about spending and revenue, "we have not finished yet, but spending was up and I think we are going to have  record revenue, he said, estimating that spending was up approximately 5 percent "We've been in very good shape," he said. "We had some cooler temps at other fairs, and we had a very really hot opening day."

    Extreme warm weather plagued the fair, but even the opening day had a boost - discounted admission of $4.00 - and once the sunset cooled things down, "people did flock to the fair at night, we did much in the nights."

    Delay Visits 
    The $4 figure became the magic number. "A lot of the vendors played along, offering food items for a $4 discount," he said. 

    Frank Zaitshik, President/CEO, Wade Shows - Wade Shows along with the Murphy Brothers provides the fair's midway - estimated that the spending was up compared to last year, but not quite near the level the higher attendance might indicate. The weather was the impediment, not because it kept folks away, but delayed their visit. "A lot of people held off coming to the fair, and with daylight savings time, that cuts back on time. We need hours to have the capacity to gross money, the more hours, the higher capacity. When people come later and later, because of the heat, it affects revenue. We like for them stay with us for a while." 

    The Missouri State Fair has been on an upward trend in recent years, following some thought times. "We were not doing well a few years ago, around '08 when the economy was really down the tubes," he said, adding that soon thereafter the Missouri government eliminated the remaining funding. The Missouri State Fair went on a belt-tightening crusade, making the fair more efficient. Also, they started reemphasizing its agricultural roots and targeting new families. "We have started targeting the young families, the young moms and dads who are starting their own family traditions with the fair. We've been in good shape, and we've gotten really good attendance for a town of 20,000.  The economy is what it is, but things aren't bad as they were."

    Perhaps also impeding spending has been what could be a tough year for the agricultural industry. "The farm economy can be volatile, and the farming community is struggling," he said. "The prices last year were good, but there was too much rain according to a state agency, so the corn harvest may be diseased. There a lot of people worried."

    But farmers  are "resilient," he said, adding that "we are the biggest showcase for farming in the state. The youth side of the fair, the 4-H is a very big deal, and very successful. We had more than 15,000 different entries"

    Rural Accommodations 
    This fair's virtues can also be seen as obstacles. The fairgrounds is in a very rural part of the state, a remote location with pastoral splendor and a direct connection to the agricultural industry and farming community. But there are only about 600 hotel rooms - and about 1,200 campsites.  

    Camping is especially popular among attendees, with long lines for camp sites (no reservations are taken, and it's a first come, first serve situation for fairgoers who prefer outdoor lodging. 

    Zaitshik noted that the fair's recent success has been the ever widening customer-base. "People come from all over the state and beyond," he said. "It gets support  from as far away as Kansas City and St. Louis. It's a very rural area, but people are willing to drive long distances because they love the fair. We've seen the fair grow dramatically and we're proud of the role we play in that growth."

    The Missouri State Fair had 40 food vendors - with about 100 differed stands. While Wolfe couldn't pick out a single food item that soared in sales and/or captured media attention, healthier options were more popular due to the overwhelming success of the Missouri Market & Bistro. Started by the state's agricultural department, the bistro features a professional chef hired by the department, who heads the kitchen, and all the food and food products sold in the market and/or prepared in the kitchen come from the namesake. "It has really gotten popular, and at times were nearly overwhelmed. But they are also selling a lot of healthy foods, it wasn't the typical deep fried things, which of course you could find at the fair. But this was probably our most popular food this year."

    But aside from their local preferences, Wolfe said the Food & Beverage segment of the fair  did well. "Overall food spending was up," he said. "The food vendors were pretty much all smiles."

    Crops Up
    The fair's marketing theme this year was See What Crops Up," which of course tied into the agricultural mission of the event. The marketing budget was about $350,000, which included a video that Wolfe said was the fair's "best one yet."

    He added that the shift has been away from print and radio, and more towards social media. "We saw this change about three years ago and it continues," he said. "Social media has become more and more important."

    The Missouri State Fair provides a mix of paid entertainment - augmenting the free entertainment available throughout the fair - including eight days of concerts, two days of auto racing, three nights of rodeo, as well as a tractor pull and bull riding. 

    He said that Lady Antebellum, with  Kelsea Ballerini was the best selling concert; other headliners included 3 Doors Down; Brett Eldredge; and a classic rock lineup of  John Kay & Steppenwolf, Foghat  and  Molly Hatchet. While still a draw, entertainment is the "fair's biggest expense," and he estimates that the fair 'lost about $50,000."

    In recent years, the bite has even bigger. "We do work with a talent agency that books fair routes with other fairs, like Nebraska and Kentucky, and that has given us some buying power, and they create mini-tours." 

    But the rising costs of entertainment has impacted the way the fair is booking. The fair is buying weather insurance so if there is a rainout - "we don't get as big a loss," said Wolfe. Like many fairs, Missouri is also booking earlier - or at least attempting to. "Country acts do better here, so that is who we want to book," he said. "We already have two nights booked for next year's fair, so we're ahead of the game. We start earlier and earlier. But country acts are waiting longer and longer to commit ever year. They wait for the awards show, and if they win awards they can drive their asking price up." 

    Rising entertainment costs and making difficult decisions on what headline entertainment draws best has been an ongoing conundrum for most fairs. Entertainment is similar to a loss leader - it brings people into the fair - but the challenge is determining how much loss in ticket sales worth versus the overall impact on all fair elements including midway, food and beverage sales.

    Zaitshik  insisted that it was "presumptuous" for him to recommend what sort of entertainment a fair should feature, however he said that the entertainment choices at this year's Missouri Fair were very effective. "I find the midway benefits differently from some of the acts," he explained. "When there's a buzz and excitement, it adds credibility to the fair, and that appeals to teenagers and young adults who are fairgoers we want on the midway. Lady Antebellum made a significant impact for us and did very well. It's a great advertising tool. But indirectly, we probably do better with Monster Truck and some of the spectacle entertainment, because those people seem to stay longer after the show." 

    Flume Ride Fun
    Wade Shows has been the midway provider for the Missouri State Fair for seven years - under contract with the Murphy Brothers - and the 2016 midway featured about 40 rides, which included Wade's new Mighty Mouse Roller Coaster - "there are only three of four of these in North America., and the response was incredible."

    The Missouri State Fair also saw the return of Wade's Water Flume Ride, which he said that "to the best of my knowledge," is also an uncommon ride in the mobile amusement industry this year.

    The record heat of 2016 may have had a negative impact. "We've been blessed with mild temperatures at this fair in recent years, but this year we were not quite as fortunate. I think it hurt spending and the time people stay on the midway, and the weather was very debilitating to our employees and our audience."

    But when an oppressive heatwave coincides with a fair, the Water Flume become  an - excuse the pun - a hot ride. "It's a great ride irrespective of the weather, but it's not as popular at the early spring fairs for example, or if it's too cool or cloudy," he said. "But where it can get very warm, even if its' not oppressive heat, it's a fun and exciting ride. The water element helps with the heat, people get wet. It's fun."

    Both the debut of the Mighty Mouse Roller Coaster and the return of the Water Flume were so well received - that following the perennial  favorite, the Giant Wheel, they were the top grossing rides at the fair. In addition, a new Zero Gravity made its Missouri State Fair debut.  

    He added, "It is one of the great fairgrounds in the country. "It is very picturesque and reminds me of the fairgrounds of my youth, when I started as  a game concessionaire. There's beautiful rolling hills, a relatively new grandstand and modern facilities, and a combination of older buildings and architecture." 

    Wolfe added, "We some hot temperatures that made start difficult. But we were up, people enjoyed themselves, we always want to do better but the fair exceeded our expectations."

  • A Tennessee Tradition: Rain Hurts Attendance, but Family Focus Succeeds
    Attendance and spending may have dipped due to rain, but this was not considered a setback for the Tennessee State Fair. Based in Nashville, the fair has been on a steady growth path since 2010, when according to Scott Jones, State Fair Manager of the Tennessee State Fair Association, the fair became a nonprofit entity - ending its direct support from government agencies - but also strengthening the focus on a more family-friendly event.

    "The fair changed and evolved," said Jones. "The event itself became more family friendly. We lost the focus of the 80s and the 90s, which was more a party atmosphere. There's no more beer gardens for example."

    Millennial Families
    The shift in focus coincided with a change in Nashville, which, much like many metropolitan areas, is undergoing a resurgence as forces of gentrification overlap with the desire of many generation X and Y 's desire to live in urban areas. "There's a building boom in Nashville," said Jones. "We have new restaurants, condos and even two amphitheaters. We are in downtown and everything around the fairground is booming, and there are a lot of young people moving into the area. We find it a challenge to appeal to these young adults and young families who are moving here. It's nice to see the young families with strollers at the fair."

    The younger demographic has also coincided with the most agricultural trend today - Farm-to-Fork. "The Tennessee Farm Bureau is a supporter," he said. "We continue to grow the show's premium, and the livestock awards are the highest in the state. We also have one of the largest elementary school programs."

    According to Jones, this year more than 3,500 elementary students - compared to less than a 1,000 last year - were part of Elementary School Day and were treated to hands-on agricultural exhibitions. "The parents and young people love the ag exhibitions, and we've been pushing the farm-to-fork program, because the younger generation really wants to know where their good comes from. The agriculture exhibitions really have an appeal. We moved some of the exhibits, like the rabbit exhibits into a different setting, out of the barn and into an air-conditioned building. People loved the new building, but also they circulated more, there was a better traffic flow.

    The Tennessee State Fair had an attendance down by about 10 percent from 2015's high of 115,000. "We are down 13,183 in attendance," he said. "You can't do anything about Mother Nature."

    Most fairs have rain - and it's not like the Tennessee State Fair had an extraordinary amount of rain - but it was when the precipitation came that sharpened its negative impact. "We had a quick moving storm on the first Saturday and then all day rain on the second Saturday," he said. "Attendance was up seven out of the 10 days, but the rain hurt the big days. So, we were down this year."

    While no record days occurred, there were signs of pent-up demand that reinforced the family friendly direction the fair has taken in recent years. "We had one of the biggest final Sundays in recent years, some of that was due to the Saturday rain," he said. " Overall we had a great fair despite two days of rain."
    He added, the fair has been growing in recent  years and that placed the event in a very strong position. "We've had strong years, but with attendance down, you do get hurt. But that's why you have savings and you balance your budget. And you pray Mother Nature cooperates next time. But the fact we had strong days shows we are headed in the right direction." 

    Midway Down 
    Rain - especially on key days - has the most noticeable negative impact on the midway. Revenues for North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) were down by 12 percent, "affected by the rain," said Jones.

    Jones said the midway had 30 rides, including the Crazy Mouse, new to the fair for 2016, which he also said was the most popular ride.  Returning rides to this year's far include the Flume and the Zipper, said Jones. 

    With the new emphasis, the fair continued its division of children/family rides apart from the rowdier spectacular and more adult rides. "We separated the kiddie rides from the other rides, which was instrumental to our family focus. We get a lot of teenagers, but teenagers will be teenagers. Not that we have problems, but they act like teenagers and moms and dads don't really want that behavior around the young kids. So we have the kiddleland on the opposite end of the fairgrounds."

    What the new kiddieland now at one end of the fair, it means more families - and more fairgoers - will be seeing more of the fairgrounds. When they did what they encountered was an increase in more roaming and free entertainment. "We focused more on the family oriented, free entertainment," said Jones. "We spend more money and had more acts that were free."

    Grounds Entertainment Grows
    Jones pointed out that the Nashville has an abundance of entertainers - in addition to musicians - and the fair brought in some of these entertainers, augmented by more familiar names on the fair circuit. "When I visited other fairs, I saw how the strolling grounds entertainment and the other free entertainment engages the crowds," he said. "I could see how the crowds gathered around them would grow family by family. You want something that is organic to the fair, that kids will like, because it is about the surprise and making discoveries."

    While the Nashville economy may be doing well compared to more recent years, families are still budget conscious and the stay-cation mentality remains a powerful factor - the free entertainment at the fair was an added value. "Nobody really comes specifically for  the ground acts," said Jones. "But what is your best vacation - the one where things didn't go as planned, and you encountered things that surprised you. Those are the best memories, and so that is why we put more money in the free entertainment this year. The best entertainment is the unexpected entertainment. "

    Some of the free and grounds entertainment this year included Korso the Magician at Heritage Court, Western Comedy Show, Mr. Bond the Science Guy, Hollywood Robots, African Acrobats at Heritage Court, Hedrick's Racing Pigs,  David Turner, Ventriloquist, Jeni Housley & Hooch (miniature donkeys); and Great Lakes Timber Show (Lumberjacks).

    Nashville's growth and entertainment renown also makes it difficult for the fair to participate in headline entertainment, instead filling music bills with a variety of free acts. We book local and upcoming acts, so being located in Nashville is a plus," said Jones. "Most artists here are looking to get stage time and exposure, so it is a buyers market."

    Nonetheless, "the fair has to compete for every entertainment dollar" among consumers (and artists) in Music City and bringing in headline entertainment as a separate ticket hasn't been part of the fair since government support ceased. However, the fair is testing the waters and actually had one paid ticket - a boxing match - the Tri-Star State Fair Boxing Showdown. As Jones explains,  the fair has had success filling seats for the short track racing, a local boxing promoter contacted the fair, noticing that the racetrack and 15,000-seat racetrack would be an ideal venue for a fight.  More than 10,000 seats were sold for the boxing match, an unusual attraction for  a fair.  While pleased with the result, Jones is not sure if it will be repeated next year. "But we are looking into bringing some headline entertainment back. We are blessed to live in Music City, and we do showcase other acts. It is something we are looking at for the future."

    But whether music or boxing or another type of paid spectacle - there has been pro-wrestling competitions in the past - it comes down to the ideal collaborators. "You have to get involved with the right promoters, the right people, to make sure you are on the same page to achieve the success you want. With the right act, we can fill the grandstands."

    Tennessee Tradition
    A Tennessee Tradition was the advertising tagline this year, encouraging the newcomers to the area to adopt the annual fairgoing experience. The fair had an advertising budget of $170,000, allocated by medium:  45 percent TV, 10 percent print; 35 percent radio; and 10 percent Social Media.

    The shift in spending is towards the social media component. Like most fairs, social media has been a growing - and often leading - component of the marketing, even though the expenditure is a smaller proportion. Since 2009, the fair has outsourced its social media, and this year they switched to Noise New Media, who Jones said worked with other fairs, rodeos and other local Nashville events. "It needs to be done professionally and constantly, like other advertising," he said. "We just don't have the staff to the social media like it should be one."

    The most often used, and most effective, social media promotion were contests and give-a-ways. "You can track social media better than other media, especially for the contests and promotions," he said. " One new thing we tried was creating Snapchat Geofilters, targeting on site visitors during peak visiting times."

    In addition, the fair also promoted more this year at a vast, local flea market and "other large community events prior to the Fair," he added.

    The Tennessee State Fair does not track food sales, which took a sales hit due to the attendance decline. There were about 30 food vendors, and "roasted corn has been the top seller for years.  I think it is because people promote it as they walk and eat."

    The fair has been offering space to Food Trucks, which has been "a craze" in Nashville for several years. While there was some complaints by food vendors when they first brought in the food trucks, "we found it didn't really take away from the sales of other vendors. They also tend to come and go, they don't stay for the whole fair because they have a schedule to be at certain places at certain times. They have followers on social media, so theoretically they do bring some of their followers to the fair and they may be new customers."

    Rainy weather on key days is not good for any fair, but for the Tennessee State Fair, 2016 edition, proved the family-focus of the fair has been a winning strategy. "Fairs are about safety and family. We are in the memory making business and want everybody to have a fun time," he said. "We have new families coming back every year now. It only raises the bar for 2017 and hopefully the weather cooperates."

    But weekend rainfalls or not, A Tennessee Tradition will continue. 

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Houghton Enterprises
Middletown, DE
10/7/2016 - 11/5/2016
Wade Shows
North Carolina State Fair
Raleigh, NC
10/13/2016 - 10/23/2016
Wade Shows
South Mississippi Fair
Laurel, MS
10/14/2016 - 10/22/2016
Amusements of America
Queen City Fair
Charlotte, NC
10/14/2016 - 10/23/2016
Deggeller Attractions
Arkansas State Fair
Little Rock, AR
10/14/2016 - 10/23/2016
Amusements of America
Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair
Statesboro, GA
10/17/2016 - 10/22/2016

IAAPA Attractions Expo - Orlando, FL
[more info..]

I.I.S.F. Gibtown Extravaganza - Gibsonton, FL
[more info..]

2015 TOP 50 FAIRS
1. Texas State Fair - Dallas, TX
2. Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo - Houston, TX
3. Minnesota State Fair - St. Paul, MN
4. San Antonio Livestock Show & Ex. - San Antonio, TX
5. Canadian National Exhibition

View Top 50 Fairs
The Industry Buzz
Gold Star Amusement's Richard Hanson passes
It is with great sadness to report the passing of Richard Hanson.  Richard was a lifelong friend of the Featherston family and served as a manager at Gold Star Amusements.  Funeral arrangements are as follows:

October 6, 2016 at 11am

Pellerin Funeral Home
211 Berard St. 
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517

The Featherston family is grateful to Father John Vakulskas for rearranging his schedule to officiate the service.  

In honor of Richard's relationship with Jaylin Koerner, it is requested that in lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Make-a-Wish Foundation (  

For those who knew Richard up north, the Featherston family is planning to have a Memorial during the Midwest Showmen's Association/MN Federation of County Fairs Convention in Bloomington, MN on January 14, 2017. Time and place TBA.
  Posted by Matt Cook on 9/29/2016
Top 15 Grossing Games at the 2016 Minnesota State Fair
The total game gross at the 2016 Minnesota State Fair set a record at over $3,259,566.99 in gross receipts, an increase of $377,792.27 (13%) over 2015.  Like rides, all games on the Mighty Midway operate on tickets and no cash or coin is accepted.  The top 15 grossing games include:

1. Bottle Up - Candice P. Anderson
2. Goblets - Candice P. Anderson
3. Goblets - Candice P. Anderson
4. Whopper Water Race - Cassata Concessions 
5. Fish-A-Rama - Oren Concessions LLC 
6. Shoot Out The Star - Midwest Concessions, Inc. 
7. Rising Waters Water Race - Cassata Concessions 
8. Long Range Basketball - Oren Concessions LLC 
9. Long Range Basketball - Oren Concessions LLC 
10. Milk Cans - Potopas Concessions, Inc. 
11. Top Glo Water Race - Cassata Concessions 
12. Ring-A-Bottle - JBS Concessions 
13. Ring-A-Bottle - Trejo Concessions 
14. Big Mouth - Potopas Concessions, Inc.
15. Balloon Pop Water Race - Thornberry Concessions 
  Posted by Matt Cook on 9/21/2016
Top 15 Rides at the 2016 Minnesota State Fair
The Minnesota State Fair achieved a record ride gross during its 2016 run with over $4,084,481.41 in ride receipts, an increase of $136,548.30 (3.5%) over 2015.

The top 15 grossing attractions on the Mighty Midway and Kidway include:

1. Crazy Mouse Spinning Roller Coaster - S.J. Entertainment 
2. Sky Flyer - Reithoffer Equipment Co., Inc. 
3. Starship 3000 - Laser Fair, Inc. 
4. New York New York Fun House - Fair Ride Entertainment LLC 
5. Hurricane - Showtime Rides, Inc. 
6. Super Nova Roller Coaster - KB Concessions LLC 
7. Gondola Wheel - Playworld Unlimited 
8. Puppy Express - Prime Pacific Ent. LLC 
9. Rock It - State Fair Services, Inc. 
10. Tilt-A-Whirl - Lauther Amusements 
11. Flipper - S.J. Entertainment 
12. Equinox - Laser Fair, Inc. 
13. Kite Flyer - Alamo Amusements, Inc.
14. Magic Maze - Wood Entertainment Company, Inc. 
15. Arabian Daze Fun House - Fun Attractions LLC 
  Posted by Matt Cook on 9/21/2016
Labor Day Weekend State Fairs Set Record Attendance
Near perfect weather helped three state fairs break record attendance numbers over Labor Day Weekend.  The Nebraska State Fair broke its previous record set in 2015 with over 361,107 guests passing through the turnstiles (up 2.5% from 2015).  In New York, the newly-redesigned state fair midway saw attendance numbers reach 1,117,630, which broke the previous record of 1,011,248 set in 2001.  In Minnesota, the Minnesota State Fair shattered previous attendance records registering 1,943,719 guests through the gates.  The previous record was 1,824,830 set in 2014.  Both the Nebraska and New York State Fairs midways are provided by Wade Shows while the Minnesota State Fair operates an independent midway.  Attendance numbers from the DuQuoin State Fair in Illinois have not yet been reported.
  Posted by Matt Cook on 9/6/2016
In our efforts to chronicle the history of our industry, we could think of no better way to further this endeavor than to interview industry pioneers and preserve their videos for posterity.

Victor Products -Concession Supplies & Equipment Sales

RJC Concessions is now hiring game help for the 2016 season!  We will be playing with upper midwest with Todd Armstrong Shows are looking for help in all games, especially Rope Ladder and Balloons.  Long season from March through November.  Bunkhouses available.  Call BOB at 936-328-6642

SONSHINE AMUSEMENTS is hiring help for the 2016 season!  Start immediately!  Work in MO throughout the summer months and southern states during the fall, spring, and winter.  Help wanted for Rides, Games, Food and much more!  Call Ashley at 205-999-3811.

Call Chestnut Identity Apparel for all your amusement industry LED lighting and apparel needs.  Visit for more info.

Galaxy Amusement Sales - LED Tube lights, LED lights, and much more!  Visit or call 800-404-5873

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