Connecting With our Competitive Exhibitors During Shelter At Home Scenarios

We are in very uncharted and challenging times. Many of our fairgoers and competitive entry exhibitors have been mandated by their local government and/or health department to stay home. Some County/State Fairs, Livestock Shows and Rodeos have been cancelled for the year. Others are in limbo while their year round events have been significantly reduced for the next few weeks. 

For those who are moving forward with their Fair Planning activities, our team has identified a way to keep our message about the fair in front of everyone via social media. For those who know me and/or know our Fair and our Fair Team, I can share that TB (if you know her you know who I mean) came up with this idea of the video series and I think it’s great! Have our exhibitors create videos of them preparing to enter their item into the fair. 

The concept is to do a video series of some of our exhibitors preparing their item to enter into the Fair. Here are some of the ideas:

1 – Select an exhibitor in canning, quilting, arts/craft etc and have them do a self video of them working on their item.

2 – Find someone who can highlight what fruits/veggies/flowers they should be planting now/near future to be entered into the Fair. 

3 – Do a video for ideas for parents to have their kid’s do a craft to enter for the fair.

4 – Do a video for adults to do a craft to enter into the fair

5 – Do a video about learning a new hobby that the result can be entered in the fair – this can be done at a local craft store showing what items they would need to purchase. Note: Most of these purchases can be done online.

Encourage them to take up a new hobby, learn a new skill! Even if that means it’s learned online!

While this is very turbulent times, everyone is looking and seeking for some normalcy. Your fairgrounds and your fair can provide that to our employees and patrons.    

Be safe everyone!

Pandemic Preparation for Your Organization or Business

The Covid 19 Coronavirus has officially been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. With that declaration countries around the world are mobilizing to secure their borders, contain the virus, protect their people and prepare for the worst case scenario. 

Fairgrounds and other event facilities are being told to cancel all events for 3-8 weeks – depending on the State. Some Fair’s have already been cancelled by their cities – Houston Livestock Show, Miami Dade Youth Fair, Colorado River Fair are recent examples. 

The Centers for Disease Control has created this great checklist for preparing and dealing with a pandemic incident. It is called the Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist. Although it was written for influenza and large businesses, any size fair organization or fair partner can benefit from reviewing and implementing activities listed. Here is the link:


Communication is the most important action your organization can take. Communicate with your Board of Directors, local city/county leaders, employees, event promoters, and your public – what are you doing and what is going on with events. 

Fairgrounds have a huge advantage over convention centers, theaters, meeting halls, etc. Fair Staff have been dealing with consumer protection issues for years – primarily preparing and preventing ecoli incidents, educating the public about human/animal interactions. Take all that messaging and protocols – modify for the current pandemic. 

Also, reach out to your Industry organizations: Fair Associations, NICA, OABA, etc.. They are communicating with Federal, State and Local officials, politicians, and their own members. If you don’t have a PR department, your industry organizations can provide you with valuable information that you can modify for your local fair organization or business. 

Remember, you are part of a large industry regardless of the size of your organization, your fair attendance or your budget. Be safe, and be prepared. 

Final Update On Creating New Events To Increase Attendance

Final Update On Creating New Events To Increase Attendance

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! 

Update on Creating New Events to Increase Attendance

Part 3 Creating Events To Increase Attendance

We are 2 months away from opening day. Where have the days gone????? We have finalized the entertainment for the hispanic event, and we continue to work on the Asian Pacific American and the Indian American events. We are challenged working with media from these two cultural groups. It’s definitely not the same as working with Univision!

We had one radio station lined up for our Indian American event and they even provided some potential entertainers. I thought “great! We are close to finalizing our entertainment and food for this one”! And then when we reached out to one of the groups the radio station recommended, they wanted $2500 for a 5 minute performance, and then they wanted additional fees to do some on-stage classes. While this group had some high level performers…we are a county fair with a very limited budget so we respectfully said thanks but no to them.

I had a conversation with our media buyers about this situation. I learned that they too were surprised to learn that the radio station wasn’t coming through as they presented themselves during our in-person meeting. This radio station will only function as a media outlet – we buy media time and they will do promotions on top of our media buy. It’s so frustrating because they seemed so anxious to work with us overall when we met in person. As a result, we are re-evaluating our entertainment and food options. We have decided to reach out to someone our Fair worked with 6 years ago with ties to this demographic to help us book entertainment and make introductions to some food vendors. We’ve provided him with a budget and we will see what he comes up with.

We also have a second demographic, asian americans, that we are creating a separate festival for. We have chosen to call this event the “Asian Pacific American” festival. This event is moving slower than we want as well. The media partners we have reached out to haven’t been as receptive to our planned festival as we had hoped. It seems that these media outlets are more focused on us paying them a huge fee to produce an event in addition to our buying media time on their radio/tv stations. And how does that make us a partner??????? Anyway our team has decided to go a different route in producing this event as well. We have a team member with some connections to the entertainment groups we seek, and we also have a couple community groups from the asian pacific community who have performed at the fair in the past. We are reaching out to them to invite them to perform on the day of our Asian Pacific American festival.

So, with 2 months until opening day, where do we go from here on promoting these new 2 events? Well….we aren’t cancelling them …..sooooooooo …… As I tell my team, for every new program, we need to take a 3 year approach. What does that mean? Well, any new program you create needs 3 years to determine it’s success rate. The first year you create the event/program. Year 2 you tweak it, and by the end of Year 3 you decide to keep it or dump it!

Meanwhile, how do we provide our marketing team with information, photos, schedules, etc to promote these new events? As fast as we can get it to them…. Photo by photo, bio by bio, and the schedule as we finalize it with each event. It’s not pretty, and it’s not perfect, We can only provide them what we can guarantee will be there!

Stay tuned – I’ll give one more update before Fair…and then will give you an update after Fair on how it all worked out.

Three Steps Every New Fair Manager Needs To Do

So, 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.

Unfortunately, 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 successful Fair!

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?

Many 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.  

From booking entertainment to understanding your financial reports, a Fair CEO must have a broad knowledge base. So, let’s get started!

The first thing to look at is the Fair’s finances. Here is a quick checklist:

  • Budget
  • Income Statement
  • Assets/Liabilities
  • Cash flow

The 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.

First, 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 flow.  

Next, 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.

If the 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.

As a thank you for purchasing this book I’d like to give you a free bonus – Interview Do’s and Don’ts.

Forward your receipt to: judy@wildlysuccessfulfair.com.

If you have specific questions you’d like answered, please reach out to us at Judy@WildlySuccessfulFair.com.

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