The Salem Fair turned 30 in splendid shape, sustaining robust attendance, increasing its ride revenue and following a strong year with another strong year. It's an amazing win for a fair which suffered rainy weather on three days, including - July 4th.
"We had a great run, big crowds, some weather but worked through it," said Carey Harveycutter, Fair Manager.
The 12-day event, held at the Taliaferro Complex night in Salem, Virginia - the county seat of Roanoke Virginia - attracted approximately 350,000 fairgoers- about the same as last year, which by most accounts was a record year for the fair. Harveycutter pointed out that the reach of the fair has grown, attracting visitors from throughout Virginia's Blue Ridge and beyon
30 Year Anniversary
The appeal was a combination of a strong midway, and more muscular marketing efforts that were able to coalesce around the very effective anniversary theme. "This was an especially satisfying fair for all of us since it marked our 30th year of putting on this massive event." said Harveycutter. "The rain is always part of the process, but thanks to the great relationships we have with our longtime fairgoers and Deggeller Attractions we've learned how to weather all kinds of storms over the years."
He sated that rain was on and off on Independence Day, followed by a Thunderstorm on July 5th and a "major storm July 6th that dropped 1/2" of rain in an hour with winds to 35 mph," he said, adding, remainder of run weather was very good."
Harveycutter estimated that the 2017 version of the Salem Fair will generate about $250,000 in income through taxes and fees for the city once the final receipts are tabulated. In addition, several non-profits benefited greatly from this year's fair. Patrons donated 8,128 pounds of non-perishable food to the Salem-Roanoke County Food Pantry in one night and "thanks to brisk advance ticket sales at Kroger, the United Way received a substantial donation," said Harveycutter. "For every unlimited ride Megapass we sold in advance at area Kroger stores, a portion was donated to the United Way of the Roanoke Valley. This year they received $13,840 thanks in large part of the great partnership we have with the good folks at Kroger."
He added that advance sale through Kroger Food Stores was up 20 percent.
The Fair's adverting budget was $70,000, which Harverycutter said was the same as 2016. However, how that money was spend saw crucial change. The allocation in terns of media, according to the fair manager, was Digital - 33 percent; TV -16 percent;, radio - 44 percent; outdoor - 7 percent.
The new ways of how the fair spent its marketing dollars is indicative of the contemporary media landscape. All fairs may face the same challenge - maximizing their marketing money - getting the biggest bang for the buck. But with more modest marketing budgets, more regional-sized fairs like Salem Fair have to be more attentive in terms of targeting fairgoers. Key is to go to where they are - and it seems they may be looking at screens, but that screen is no longer the traditional television screens of when the Salem Fair began three decades ago.
"This year we increased digital and reduced TV, both broadcast and cable," said Harverycutter.
He explained that there were two reasons for shifting funds this year. "Our core audience [Women: 18-49 and kids 12-18] do not watch as much TV as we did."
But as we all know, that core audience are replacing that TV time with smart phone time, an activity he sees increasing with the warm weather. "The other reason is that it is summer and so many folks are using their smart phones and tables all the time."
The move towards expanded digitized marketing has others significant changes for the fair. "No print but we purchased digital products from our local daily," he said. " We utilized geofencing around various locations, digital static ads and 10-second video ads in all platforms." ' The economy seemed to have improved compared to last. Harveycutter admitted that it was "hard to determine," how much the economy may have improved from year to year, but that with unemployment in Salem only was 3.6 percent, "we are overall doing pretty good. Folks came out and had money to spend."
Midway spending was one of the most noticeable upticks in spending at the fair. Deggeller Attractions, which has been the carnival company for the fair for all of its 30 years, saw an increase of 5 percent. Harveycutter called the midway - which featured 43 rides - "the largest midway ever," he said. New rides included kiddie bumper boats, kiddie train and Hydra, with the top grossing rides being the new Hydra and Giant Wheel.
While there no discernable food trends among the nearly 20 independent Midway food vendors, popular items included Shish-K-Bobs, roasted corn and slush puppies; Goblin Gourmet (gourmet funnel cakes); Cajun Chicken; Pizza; Tiki Tea stands and Gentry Miller, whose fryer stand featured fish, shrimp, ribbon fries and fried veggies.
The fair also featured 800 creative arts/horticulture exhibitors with more than 3000 exhibits, the Nickerson KS with Racing Pigs and Petting Zoo; Jill and Jeff Eaton with Kandu Magic & kid's stage, Butterfly Encounter Brunon Blaszak's Royal Bengal Tigers, Danny Grant Variety Show, Wildlife Wendy and her Tropical Birds, and Zuzu Acrobats.
The free entertainment enhanced the fair's offerings, but the spotlight remained on community involvement. As the fair continued its "strong run" another year, the robust turnout of fairgoers was equaled by enthusiastic participation by the community. "Once again, the Blue Ribbon exhibits were a huge part of the fair," said Harverycutter. "More than 800 exhibitors competed in the 500 categories that ranged from floral arrangements to youth arts and crafts."