What is the Correct Entertainment To Provide For Your Fair? 

First of all, there are many definitions for the term “entertainment”. 

Google Definition: What is the meaning of entertainment?

1a : amusement or diversion provided especially by performers ie hired a band to provide entertainment. b : something diverting or engaging: such as. (1) : a public performance. (2) : a usually light comic or adventure novel.

Fairs provide entertainment in many ways. Carnival rides are entertaining, fair food is entertaining, retail vendors at the fairs are entertaining, and the traditional entertainer (musician, singer, magician, clown, etc) are all entertaining because ……Fairs are in the business of entertainment. 

In my book, How to Plan A Wildly Successful Fair,  I interviewed 10 Fair Industry Experts, including Ethan Hirsch, Vice President for Wilson Events. He shared that “you have to work the entertainment program as aggressively as you would the marketing and advertising programs”. Think about how much time you or your staff focus on marketing and advertising. Apply that same planning and effort to entertainment and programming to get results. 

Developing a strategy for your entertainment is vital. Selecting the correct entertainment for your fairgoers is vital. Having a mixture of entertainment is vital. Keeping your personal choice of entertainment personal is vital (don’t let your personal choice interfere with a business decision). 

What does an entertainment program strategy look like? What is the purpose of your entertainment? Are you providing music while patrons enjoy their food, giving people a place to rest their feet while they watch the local dance studio students perform or providing your patrons with a once in a lifetime encounter with ______ (fill in the blank). The first two don’t necessarily drive large numbers of attendance, while the last one has the potential to be a huge draw. 

Each fair should work to have a turnover in attendees during the day and evening especially on weekends. Providing a mixture of entertainment based on your attendees is key. Families and older demographics like to do their ‘entertaining’ during the day or early evening, younger demographics like to go out for the evening. Having ‘free’ entertainment where the public does not pay an additional fee is so important. If you can only have 2 strolling acts on your grounds and a band at night, figure out what age demographic you want to target with those entertainers and hire appropriately. 

You should also expect to have areas of your fairgrounds ‘close down’ when it gets dark, ie animal areas and kids areas. Expecting these areas to stay open until 11 pm or midnight when the carnival closes is unrealistic, although I have seen many new Fair Managers have that expectation. 

In reality, most animal areas (ie barns) are located in areas that can be naturally ‘closed’ – either via fencing, ‘area closed for the night’ signage, a driveway adjacent to the barn(s), or even a walkway. 

Regardless of the size of the fair, every fair should provide some area for kids and parents to decompress and have some bonding time. Don’t locate this in the middle of the carnival. The kid’s will be too distracted. Find an area that can include shade, seating and kid level activities – maybe something adjacent but far enough away from the actual rides to have a decent conversation. Providing something as simple as playing blocks, children’s books, coloring sheets or large coloring posters. These are all items that can be purchased inexpensively – check out your local thrift shop for some books and kid’s toys. Remember to have one staff member responsible for checking the area regularly for cleanliness, trash, organizing etc.. Larger fairs should consider hiring someone to create/manage/maintain the area. It all comes down to what your fair can do with the resources available. 

This children’s area will serve two purposes – it gives the parents a break and time to catch their breath, and, as a result, will give kids a break. Over stimulated kids will begin to act out, and exhausted parents will give up and say “ok…let’s just go home”. Having a place for parents and kids alike to take a breather, or decompress, will help lengthen their stay which will translate into revenue – another meal or possibly snacks and dessert. 

For the older demographic that likes to come out in the evening, look towards music, dancing, adult type entertainment. Find local bands that perform in bars in your area, for a nominal fee they may consider performing at your fair and they usually have a local following. Make sure to have them use their social media platforms to share their performance dates and times. You can also post on your social media channels – Seeking Local Performers for the XXX County Fair. Here is an example on Maricopa County Fair’s Instagram Post: 

And the Central Washington State Fair used this post to attract local talent: 

Both of these posts have a simple message, and the graphics aren’t overly busy. 

I recently saw a fair in the east host a speed dating event on the ferris wheel for 2 hours one night. Registration was done in advance or if available that night, attendees had to use 5 words to describe themselves, only first names (no last names, towns or emails), ride the ferris wheel 2 turns (females remained on the ride and males moved from ride to ride), give input on each person they met, if both parties say yes, fair emailed the two to make a formal match. The couple took it from there. Some Fairs have provided karaoke singing at night. Having an area with a dance area with music (live or DJ) can create so much fun….make sure to have some adult beverages available and serve responsibly. Put a photo booth in your beer garden – if they can’t leave the area, at least give them something besides drinking beer to do…..create memories! 

There is so much more for selecting the correct entertainment. Each fair is unique and locally focused. Once you begin to treat your entertainment and programming as you do marketing and advertising, you’ll start seeing results in your bottom line. 

WildlySuccessfulFair.com was created to help County and State Fair Management Teams in planning their annual fair. From selling more tickets, to making your fair safer, we strive to provide relevant information from successful fairs across the United States. Make sure to Follow and Like us on Facebook and Instagram. 

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