It’s now 90 days after our Fair! I wasn’t able to post before we opened – so many new things going on and I just lost track of time! So here is the final update from our cultural events we created.
We had a great Fair! I’ll start out with that. The weather cooperated with most days at 80 degrees and one or two days in the 90 degree level. For those who produce outdoor events you know that weather is the key to success! You can have the best programming, entertainment, and advertising …. And if your event is outdoors and it’s 100 degrees …well, there goes attendance! Fortunately, we had great weather!
During the past 90 days since Fair ended, the team has spent hours having discussions on what worked, what needs improvement and what do we never want to do (ie go through) again. Oh yeah … and many of us have been on vacation enjoying some much needed time off!
My last post had us in a quagmire! We were unable to find a media partner to assist us in producing our asian continent themed events. As a result, we had reached out to an individual we worked with 6 years ago for our “Spice of India” event which celebrated the cultures of the Asian Continent. He knew us and knew what it would take to move forward. (Note: In case you were wondering why we didn’t go this route in the beginning we had a very small budget and planned for existing staff to take on coordinating each event. Unfortunately that didn’t happen).
Fortunately, this person was interested and willing to assist us in coordinating and promoting our events. And, he understood budget limitations …. So ….60 days out from opening day we finally had a partner and someone we knew would deliver!
During that 60 day period, many emails and phone calls occurred. We waived food concession revenue to get some food trucks in for the two days. We had 3 food trucks for each day which featured food from the asian continent. Fortunately, all 3 of the food trucks had been at our fairgrounds for a year round event so they already were familiar with our grounds and what it took to sell food to the public ie health dept permits, power, water and sewer needs, and an idea of crowd capacity. We told them to plan on 500 people each day to give them some idea of the crowd and their potential sales.
Our event promoter spent a great deal of time coordinating the various groups who would be performing. Our Fair team assisted in collecting information from the groups including their performance liability waivers, distribution of admission and parking tickets and helping them get in and get out of the fairgrounds on the two days.
Most all of the entertainers made it onto the fairgrounds, however, the belly dancer had a sword as part of her performance and she was concerned that security would not let her through the metal detectors…..so we helped her get through that process securely.
We had scheduled the stage for programming from 12 noon – 6 pm. We open the Fair at 11 am. We allowed 1 hour for fairgoers to get in and reach the stage in time for the entertainment to begin. The first day the entertainment started a bit late, and the second day it started closer to 12 noon.
Both of these events were held on Sundays to increase attendance on Sunday. We had some amazing performances and activities. On the Asian Pacific Celebration day, we had performances from all the asian countries with the exception of two countries and one of those two countries was represented via the food truck (Vietnam). During the Bollywood at the Fair some of the fair patrons were invited on stage to take part in the dancing. There was also MC’s for both days to explain and teach about the different activities going on. This made a big difference
Overall, we do believe we had an increase in the demographics that we wanted to reach: asian american and indian american.
Our rough estimates are that 1000 people attended each event, however, our fair team observed many others attending the fair throughout the two weekends
We are so pleased with the results that we will continue these two events for 2020. We are meeting with the event promoter soon to discuss 2020!
you’ve been hired to be a Fair CEO! What does that mean exactly? Were you hired
to “change things”, “bring agriculture back to the Fair”, “make the Fair more
community focused”, or my all time favorite, “make the Fair better”? Do you
really know what that means? The bottom line is that everyone who works at any
fair wants to do all of the above! So, how do you do that with limited staff,
budget, or community support? Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone.
there is no “Fair Manual” telling us how to create and produce the “best Fair
ever”. Fairs may claim to be the “biggest”, the “best”, the “largest”. So how
do you evaluate the “best fair”? Well, it depends on whom you ask. Keep in
mind—each partner has his or her own interpretation of what a successful fair
is. Carnival operators say higher ride revenue. Food vendors say more patrons
so they can sell more food. Commercial exhibitors may say $1 admission days so
the fairgoers can spend more at our booths. Fair Staff may say higher
attendance. The truth is…there is no one answer. They all contribute to a
You are in luck! I have written a book that was created to provide a starting point – a beginning conversation for the new (and experienced) Fair CEO who wants to put on a wildly successful Fair. You can purchase a copy of the book here.
Exactly what does A wildly successful Fair mean? Does it mean more attendance? More revenue? Fewer incidents? Great weather? More entries? Higher betting revenues? More community participation?
times the media tries to drive that message, based on attendance. To them, a
slight dip in attendance means a fair wasn’t successful. Well, what about a
slight dip in attendance with no significant issues? Or fair revenues are up,
vendors’ and the carnival operators’ revenues are up, yet attendance wasn’t
higher than the previous year? To those of us working in the Fair Industry …
that’s a successful Fair! So, clearly, there is no definitive answer to
what constitutes a successful Fair.
booking entertainment to understanding your financial reports, a Fair CEO must
have a broad knowledge base. So, let’s get started!
first thing to look at is the Fair’s finances. Here is a quick checklist:
budget is your map, the income statement offers directions and the cash flow is
your destination. The Assets/Liabilities can indicate strengths and
weaknesses in the operation.
identify where the main revenues are coming from. If the annual Fair is the
sole source of revenue for the organization, chances are there are huge peaks
and valleys for cash flow. It’s imperative to create additional sources of cash
identify where the main expenses are going. Personnel is generally one of the
largest expenses, however, a good staff will make any CEO’s job easier.
Are there vendor contracts in place that could be re-negotiated for new
rates? Take the first year to question every expense. Ask yourself if an
expense is necessary to run the operation. Is there a better way to do
purchasing? After the first year, you’ll have a better idea of your cash flow.
majority of cash flow comes in at one time of the year, how are expenses
monitored throughout the year? Make sure to do a budget comparison each month.
It’s easier to make small adjustments to the operation than find out 6 months
later that one expense is out of control.
The second thing to look at is personnel. Who is doing what and is that the best use of the employees’ time and skill sets? Just because an employee has been responsible for a particular area for 10 years doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for their skills or the organization. Fair Staff love what they do and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.
The third thing to do is purchase a copy of How to Plan A Wildly Successful Fair and hear from our 10 professionals and experts in their fields.
thank you for purchasing this book I’d like to give you a free bonus – Interview
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your receipt to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part 2 – Creating Events for Increasing Fair Attendance
One of the Fair’s most valuable partners is the media who will help you spread the message about your fair, entertainment, contests, and everything else going on during the Fair. Regardless of the number of media partners in your market, they provide news and current events to their subscribers/listeners/viewers and you want to make sure your Fair is part of their regular reporting schedule.
Our team meets with our media partners about 5 months before the Fair. We discuss new events and activities. We identify ways for their on-air personalities to promote the Fair. We also share what we have added, changed or eliminated.
As we create new events for attracting a targeted demographic, the media partners are crucial in insuring the event is well publicized. For example, we have partnered with Univision to promote our hispanic event, Festival Latino. We met with Univision 4 years ago, to learn about their audience demographics and share our interest in creating an event during the Fair that would appeal to their audience. Our partnership is a win-win for Univision and the Fair. The Fair purchases advertising on their radio and tv outlets. Univision arranges for entertainment for our grounds and the Fair pays for the talent through Univision.
This year we are adding two events that will attract the Chinese American demographic and the Indian American demographic. We notified our media buyers, who then identified potential media partners for these events and set up meetings to discuss our concepts.
The first meeting was with an Indian American radio station. This meeting included our Fair Staff working on the festival, our media buyers, someone from our marketing team and, of course, the radio station team. This Indian American media outlet is relatively new to our area, however, they reported that there are over 500,000 South Asians in our market which validated our choice of this demographic. We explained our concept and received great feedback and a high level of interest in participating. They have been asked to provide some ideas for local entertainment, food, retail vendors and contests.
The second meeting was with a Chinese American media outlet that owns Chinese radio and TV stations. This meeting didn’t produce the same results. We received a proposal to do a two day event which was a duplicate of an existing event we currently have on site during the non-fair period that is produced by an outside promoter. After explaining that we were not interested in duplicating a non-fairtime event, we asked for a proposal for assisting us in producing a 6 hour event.
Moving forward, our media buyers set up a one day 6 hour whirlwind day of meeting with 5 of our existing media partners. From 9 am – 3 pm we met and shared with them our plans for the current year: what was new and different, what was eliminated and what was being brought back. All of the meetings were very productive, educational and fun! The media partners have worked with our team for many years, and it’s like old home week when we all get together. We learned what the radio and TV stations were are working on, what their demographics like and want, and we also reviewed any challenges we had in the prior year. Overall the daylong meetings were very productive!
In case you are wondering, the Fair provides tickets to the media for fair admission, concerts, meet and greets, rodeo, monster truck, demolition derby, tasting events (wine, beer, craft cocktail), horse racing, and anything else we can offer to them when we do a ticketed event. The Fair purchases advertising on the radio and TV. The media partners then work with us to provide their on air personalities a chance to talk up the Fair during their time on the air. We sometimes hire their on-air personalities to come to the Fair and judge, emcee, participate in our cattle drive, or do a live remote at the Fair.
Each of the media partners expressed a high level of interest in our cultural events and festivals we are producing. An extremely valuable connection was made after we reviewed our two new events because these are the same demographics one media partner is reaching out to.
After the day long marathon of media meetings, our staff met briefly with our media buyers. We received an update on the proposal they had gotten from the Chinese media group – it was for $28,000! It was higher than the total for all 4 events we are producing. So, back to the drawing board on that one. Our media buyers will reach out to the Chinese media group, explain our needs, and ask for a revised proposal. We also all agreed it was time to come up with Plan B for this event!
The day after the day long media meetings, I received a call from one of the media partners about our Chinese American event. She and I had a long conversation about that particular demographic. She shared with me that one of her big advertisers may be interested in sponsoring our event. We talked about our name of the event, Chinese Cultural Celebration, and she shared how in our region the term ‘Asian Pacific American’ or “APA” was used for similar events. The light bulb went off in my head because none of our team had really liked the name of Chinese Cultural Celebration. She also shared how the term “APA” included a larger demographic: chinese, taiwanese, japanese, and filipino. Wow! Another light bulb! Our team was struggling to identify multiple chinese partners, and now, we could open our search to include these other groups, which, by the way ranked high in attending our Fair based on our Fairs survey. As I shared this information with our team the following day, they too were excited.
So now, we wait. All of the media partners are compiling their proposals. We’ve authorized Univision to reach out to the entertainers they brought to us last year and book them for this year. Our team will review our notes from the meeting, make some changes to what we offer the media partners, and work on radio, TV and print ads and other marketing collateral needed for these partnerships to move forward.
I LOVE technology! From personal use to professional use …. there are so many options … how do decide which one to use? First figure out what you need to track and who needs access to that information? If you have any team members that work off-site – you need a cloud based program. I highly suggest you look to cloud based options – any natural disaster can wipe out locally stored files, unless you have a cloud based backup system. And in today’s world, cloud based files are so inexpensive.
I rely on 3 programs – all of which are free for the minimum amount of services, or for a slight fee you can use all of their services. They each have their pros/cons …..so make sure to research which one best fit’s your needs. Or you may consider using multiple ones.
The top 3 (and free) that I have found most useful are Evernote, Trello and Google Drive. All of these have options for accessing via mobile so you can be anywhere and still access you information.
I use Evernote for personal and professional reasons. From tracking my daily, weekly, monthly and annual tasks to having a list of books I want to read or movies I want to see, Evernote is my go to tool for that type of documentation. You can add a Chrome extension of Evernote and then when you find websites, articles, etc online, you can ‘clip’ it to Evernote. The ‘secret sauce’ of Evernote is their ‘tag’ system. You can ‘tag’ notes and then search based on the ‘tag’.
Trello is another great program that you can use for everything from planning a new festival, to tracking (and collaborating on) your sponsorship programs. We are using Trello for all of our new events during the Fair. You can create a ‘team’ board, that allows you the ability to limit who sees and accesses which ‘boards’. For our new events we are using Trello to share who, what, where and how. From our on-site team to our sponsorship team, media buyers, and entertainment coordinators they can all access information needed for meetings, proposals, scheduling and more. Trello allows you to upload files. And if you are using Outlook – you can then send an email to a Trello Board! Here is a screen shot of our fair’s Trello board.
Finally Google Drive has it’s own uses. You can create shared documents, upload files or photos, see who changed a document when, and again — it can all be shared – regardless of location. And it’s all for free.
Regardless of which software you use, make sure all your team members understand how and when to use it. If the software tool you are using doesn’t have an app, or mobile option, then try one of these … they are free!
How do you increase attendance? Attract new patrons correct? And to attract new patrons, fair management needs to do some research and make some decisions. First, what demographic are you trying to reach?
How do you determine which group to focus on? We have found this information in our survey. By doing a survey at your fair to learn about the current attendees and identifying patterns. If you aren’t collecting demographic information annually or at least every other year you have no data to make good decisions. Your survey must include age (or a range), gender, zip code and ethnicity at a minimum.
We recently discovered a significant increase in our attendance by the asian population using our onsite fair survey. Further research indicated that our community demographic had changed as well. We quickly realized we needed to make some adjustments to our programming to begin the process of attracting the growing asian demographic in our community to the Fair, and, naturally, increasing attendance at our fair.
Based on our fair survey from a three year period we chose to focus on the top two growing sub-demographics: chinese americans and indian americans.
The next decision was made to create 2 new festivals during the Fair featuring chinese american and indian american entertainment, food, vendors, contests, etc.. We’ve already been doing this in the hispanic market with great success. Over the past 3 Fairs, we have been working with a team from the local Univision TV/Radio media group. The Fair purchases advertising on their TV and Radio outlets and pays for entertainment. Univision helps promote our hispanic event, Festival Latino, and arranges for the entertainment. In addition, the Fair provides marketing collateral in spanish for Univision to distribute at events they produce or events they attend. It’s been a successful process, so we decided to try the same process with these two new festivals.
We contacted our media buyers, who did research to determine which media partner would be the best partnership. Stay tuned for updates as we go through this process.
Are you and your team ready to face an emergency evacuation of your Fairgrounds during Fair? And what if something happened during a non-Fairtime event? Have you reviewed your emergency evacuation plan lately? Is it fairtime specific or can it also be used at any time? Do you conduct “emergency scenarios” on a regular basis as a training exercise for your team? Do you know what your emergency plan is? If you have had staff changes, is your emergency/evacuation plan up to date? Do your Board of Directors know what their role is if an emergency was to occur on your fairgrounds? Who is authorized to speak to media during an event? …………. and the list goes on!.
These are all very important questions to ask of yourself and your organization. Take some time to develop an emergency action plan/emergency response plan/…..whatever you choose to call it. Make sure it exists and that your team and Board of Directors know what their roles area during an emergency, and…..practice! You can never practice enough!
The public’s expectation when they step onto your fairgrounds is that they will be safe. While no one can predict every type of scenario, make sure your team is prepared to communicate if an emergency were to occur on your fairgrounds.
Here are some items to include in your emergency plan:
Identify who can initiate the emergency plan. If you have a small team, it may seem obvious who will make the decision, but this should be written down. During your Fair, this decision making responsibility may change to law enforcement.
If the situation requires outside resources, such as first aid or law enforcement then call 911 or call your on-site emergency number.
Names, positions and cell phone numbers of your Management Team.
The location of where the Incident Command Center will be. This could be your administration office board room, or the office that your security personnel are during the fair. Having identified a couple alternative locations is important in the event that your primary location isn’t available.
Regrouping Area – This would be the location that all employees would report to in the event that all buildings and structures are damaged. There should be a primary and secondary regrouping area in the event that the primary regrouping area is unavailable or unaccessible.
Responsibilities and Actions of managers and supervisors – If first responders are called in, they will take action immediately and will manage the incident. Your role is to assist the first responders if asked, but more importantly to take care of your team and the public.
Management Team – meet in the designated area to access incident and notify their supervisors of the incident via cell phone, land line, radio or in person if unable to reach their staff.
Supervisors – report to their work station unless they are involved in the incident. If necessary, evacuate their work area and insure that all their employees are accounted for.
Employees – assist in directing patrons to the nearest exit or to safe areas away from the incident. Employees may be asked to assist first responders as well. After completing their tasks, then they will report to the regrouping area.
Human Resources – make sure to have an up to date list of which employees are working that day. This list will be used to verify the employee’s presence at the regrouping area.
Media – make sure to have a media protocol in place. This will identify who is authorized to speak on behalf of the organization. First responders will have their public information officer (PIO) on site or will be communicating with them if they are offsite. It’s important that the Fair’s media spokesperson work with the PIO’s to insure a consistent message.
Evacuation – identify who has the authority to make the decision to evacuate. If first responders are involved, the decision is theirs. If no first responders are on site, the CEO/Management team will most likely make the decision. It is possible that the on-site Supervisor will also have to make the decision.
List of local emergency contacts – law enforcement (sheriff and police), fire department, private security if present
Note that 911 should be used ONLY in the event of an immediate life threatening crisis or emergency.
Regional Disaster – your fairgrounds may be designated as a disaster relief center for the Office of Emergency Services. Make sure you have spoken with those in your area to learn their protocol and their expectations as well as your’s during a regional disaster.
Most important of all, don’t let an incident be the first time you interact with first responders in your area. Set up regular meetings (annual/quarterly) to meet and discuss and review emergency planning procedures. Staff changes with first responders just like our fair staff changes. It’s important to know each other before an incident.
Taking the steps above will help you and your organization be prepared when that emergency or incident does arise.
If you would like to purchase a copy of the book, How to Plan Pay For and Put On a Wildly Successful Fair click here.