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Advance Sale Ticketing, Increased Marketing, and Good Weather Boost Attendance at the Chesapeake Jubilee


By Mary Weber

Photo courtesy of

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The 2017 Chesapeake Jubilee took place May 18th-21st under the direction of new Executive Director, Stephanie Welke. 

After a few years of bad weather during the four day event, Welke and the Jubilee committee focused on increasing attendance and revenue for the 34th annual Chesapeake Jubilee. According to Welke, they reached their goal with new marketing strategies such as direct mail and coupons as well as instituting advance ticket sales for the first time in the Jubilee's 34 year history.

Admission to the Chesapeake Jubilee is $3 per person; this year, Welke changed the age limit for free child's admission from eight and under free to three and under free. 

Welke found that the age was too high especially now that the committee has focused more oPhoto By n children's programming throughout the weekend. Despite the brevity of the Jubilee, the committee included two themed days this year. Friday, May 19th, was Military and First Responders day at the Jubilee; all military personnel, first responders, and their families were admitted for free. Saturday, May 20th, the Jubilee hosts a spectacular Zambelli firework show dedicated to the armed forces; citizens of Chesapeake look forward to it each year. Sunday, May 21st, Welke and the Jubilee committee tried something new; they created a program entitled "Celebrating Faith and Unity Through Music," entertainment was provided by local and national Christian singers and gospel groups. 

All entertainment at the Chesapeake Jubilee is included with the $3 admission. The Main Stage/Bagley Stage (named after Buddy Bagley a Jubilee founder) and the Jubilee/Family stage are scheduled with musical acts all weekend long. 

On Friday, May 19th, the bad Side Effect opened on the main stage and American Idol alumnus and Chesapeake native, Chris Richardson, closed out the evening. At the same time, on the Jubilee Stage, Chloe Carpenter and Stephan Anthony entertained guests. On Saturday, acts such as Crazy X, Brittany Marie, Jamie Pridgen Band, and Backwoods Company were on the main stage while local acts and DJs entertained on the Jubilee Stage. On Sunday, during the "Celebrating Faith and Unity through Music" program, Bridge Worship, The 757 Worship Collective, and American Idol Finalist Chris Sligh were on the main stage. Additionally, Revival Worship Moment, Messiah UMC Praise Band, and Changing Lanes performed on the Jubilee Stage. 

In addition to musical acts on the two stages, customers had access to lots of other entertainment throughout the weekend. The Puppetone Rockers performed as a strolling act Friday night of the Jubilee, anew act this year. Colonial Seaport, a company providing maritime interactive demonstrations had lots of activities available for fairgoers on Saturday and Sunday. The Jubilee also featured a "Kids Corner," which included a petting zoo, spin art, sand art, face painting, and a juggler. 

Amusements of America provided the midway for the 2017 Chesapeake Jubilee as they have since the events inception. According to Welke, a couple of the most popular rides were the newly refurbished "Free Fall" and the crowd favorite "Fireball." 

Amusements of America had unlimited ride hand-stamps available for customers each day of the Jubilee for $30 and also sold ride tickets in packages. "We also had a separate midway which we deemed the 'kidway' that featured about 10-15 rides meant for small children and families," says Welke. 

Guests at the Chesapeake Jubilee also had access to plenty of vendors for food, novelty, and arts and crafts items. Welke says the Jubilee had about twenty independent food vendors this year; longtime favorites were in attendance such as Granny's Funnel Cakes and Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel cakes but the Jubilee was fortunate enough to have some first time vendors such as Urbana Seafood Company as well. 

The Jubilee also sells beer and wine for adult fairgoers to enjoy. This year, they featured domestic beer as well as craft beer from local brewery, Big Ugly Brewing Company. Welke says beer and wine is sold through a token system; customers visit an ID tent near the beer and wine, their identification is checked, and then they exchange money for coins: each coin equals five dollars. "We had local groups run the ID and beer and wine tents. Groups such as the Knights of Columbus worked the tents and we gave them a donation in exchange," says Welke. 

The 2017 Jubilee also featured two large arts and crafts tents that housed approximately 100 vendors. This year, Welke began a Fall craft show to raise money for the Jubilee so many of the vendors who participated in the Fall craft show also signed up for space during the Jubilee. "I'm very happy with the number of vendors we had this year. We had lots of repeat vendors from the 2016 Jubilee but also had quite a few from the craft show this past fall," says Welke. 

The advertising budget for this year's Jubilee was approximately $30,000. Welke and the committee spent a similar amount of their budget on tv and radio ads as they did last year but introduced some new marketing strategies. This year, Welke made the decision to include a buy one get one free admission coupon in a direct mailing called "Valpack." "We had a very high return on the Valpack coupons and it reached about 410,000 homes," says Welke. 

Additionally, buy one get one free admission coupons were available through an online coupon site called "Peach Jar," these coupons go out to parents in the Chesapeake City School District. The Jubilee also offered a $1 off admission coupon sponsored by Dollar Tree on their website and Welke handed out day admission passes to local, large business in order to encourage attendance. 

For the first time in its history, the Jubilee offered advanced sale tickets through Innovative Ticketing. Admission and ride combo tickets were available for $21.50 and family four packs of admission and unlimited ride wristbands were available for $85 prior to the event. Selling tickets in advance gave Welke peace of mind when it came to the history of bad weather during Jubilee weekend. 

"We really ramped up our Facebook presence this year," says Welke; they hosted giveaways for free admission and sponsored posts to get the word about about the event. Welke also put street signs out in high traffic intersections around town about a month before the Jubilee began. 

The Chesapeake Jubilee would not be possible without the hard work of the nearly 100 volunteers that offer up their time to help Welke and the committee throughout the event. Welke is the only paid, full time employee of the Chesapeake Jubilee. She is supported by a Board of Directors, an Executive Committee, and a Logistics Committee. Welke says she will focus on increasing revenue and attendance next year by keeping expenses down and continuing with new marketing approaches and advanced ticket sales.

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