The 2016 Four States Fair saw a slight increase in attendance; hosting about 85,000 guests over the ten days. Admission was $7 for adults, $5 for children 6-12, and kids 5 and under were free. This year, the fair also offered an admission "Fun Pass" for $65; those who purchased the pass were able to come to the fair every day. In addition to regular admission prices, the Four States Fair offered admission specials on Senior Citizens Day and Salute To Our Heroes Day. Senior Citizens Day was on Sunday; seniors got in for free and the fair provided shuttles to the front gate.
Additionally, the fair partnered with a local hospice facility to provide senior citizens with free blood pressure tests, free food, and free blood screening. Senior Citizens Day was very well attended according to Lisa Barr, COO of t
he Four States Fair. Salute To Our Heroes Day took place on September 11th; all first responders were admitted into the fair for free in order to thank them for their service to the community.
The Four States Fair partnered with Wrights Amusements this year. Barr found Wrights Amusements at the Texas Fair and Expo Show. According to Barr; the decision to make Wrights their midway provider was an easy one; "I fell in love with them on the spot. Wrights Amusements are good people and a good carnival company. We look forward to continuing our relationship with them." Wrights Amusements offered customers $30 armbands each day of the fair; the pay one price ride option every day was very popular with fairgoers. In partnership with the Four States Fair, Wrights Amusements offered a $2 Tuesday ride special for the 2016 fair.
The Four States Fair provided fairgoers tons of family-oriented entertainment. On their outdoor stage, they hosted local entertainment: radio stations and popular bands.
Football is huge in Texarkana so the fair hosted post-football game dance-offs at the fair to encourage high school aged students and people from the community to integrate the fair into their normal football routine. All the local entertainment is included with the price of admission. Wednesday through Saturday, the fair held PRCA extreme bull riding and rodeo; "The show was very well received and had big crowds," said Barr. Additionally, on the first Saturday of the fair, they had a demolition derby which also had a great crowd.
Barr felt that these thrilling acts attracted audiences of all ages. The fair also had Bob Burnham's Family Entertainment Show, which hosts mock game shows for families to enjoy, as well as The Banana Derby, a dog racing show with monkey jockeys!
The Four States Fair also uses their Agricultural Learning Center as a family attraction throughout the fair. The Ag learning center is usually used as a field trip area throughout the year but is a main attraction during the fair. The staff in the Ag Learning Center gave away free ice cream, answered questions about the educational displays, let children milk a fake cow, and monitored the petting zoo complete with facts and general information about the different animals.
Food plays an important role at the Four States Fair and is often people's sole motivation to come out each year. According to Barr, "A lot of people come out just for the fair food."
One of the most popular items is the peanut patty, they're generally only sold at the fair so people wait all year to get them. The fair also boasts an impressive amount of fried foods including the cajun corn dog (new this year), and fried cookies and candies. One of the fair's year-round vendors tried a new item at Barr's urging: the funnel cake hamburger. Barr loves working with the vendors and pushing them to try new and creative menu items each year; "I am very fortunate. I have a great group of vendors who put up with my ideas."
4-H and FFA have a big presence at the Four States Fair. They host the largest livestock show in Arkansas for junior breeding beast cattle; this year's show included over 600 head of cattle. In addition to livestock shows, 4-H and FFA members participate in goat shows, dairy shows, and swine shows throughout the fair. Every year, they hold a couple of volunteer kid's days at the fair for kids in pre-k all the way up to 3rd grade. On the volunteer kids days, the participants get to enjoy the agricultural learning center, and see a min-rodeo created just for them.
The Four States Fair has lots of domestic exhibits so that members of the community can participate in the fair. They have one building strictly for fine arts and photography displays. The Home Arts section of the domestic exhibits includes canning, baking, sewing, clothing, woodworking and needle-working as well as many other displays. All judging is done prior to the fair and then entries are displayed for fairgoers to enjoy. Anyone can enter their home or fine arts goods into the competition so it is a great way for many members of the community to get involved with the fair.
Advertising the Four States Fair is a unique challenge as the fair staff aims to get their message out to residents of four different states: Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. They do a $40,000 cash buy for media advertising as well as some additional trade.
The Four States Fair advertises on television, radio, print, and social media. Barr mentioned that they have pulled back a bit on their print budget but still make sure they advertise in all the local social magazines. This year, the fair staff decided to increase their social media budget from $100 to $1,000. Barr says that this has made a huge difference for the fair and they've noticed a lot more participation on their social media sites. Barr does Facebook posts and contests where customers like and share statuses and post their favorite fair photo in order to win a fair fun package. The Four States Fair makes sure that their message is consistent in all marketing efforts; "We want our customers to feel like a kid; leave all stress and worries behind when they're at the fair," says Barr.
The Four States Fair is a 501-C(3) nonprofit organization. The fair receives some grants for advertising. The fair operates the rest of the year on year-round events, they try to make sure their facilities are constantly booked in order to fund fair activities. Barr says that they operate on a $1M budget.