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One day shorter but same attendance numbers for Washington State Fair

10/20/2017

By Mary Weber

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The 2017 Washington State Fair was a successful one. Attendance was about 1.1 million, just about the same last the 2016 fair. This attendance consistency was a victory for the fair as they ran one day shorter this year than they did in 2016. 

According to Stacy Howard, Public Relations Manager, 2016 was the first year the fair opened Labor Day weekend so the fair ran for 21 days and was closed on Tuesdays. "We closed on Tuesdays because most of the schools in the area started on the Tuesday after Labor Day," says Howard. This year the fair ran for 20 days: opening the Friday before Labor Day. 

At the gate, admission prices for the Washington State Fair are $14 for adults, $10.50 for students 6-18 and seniors 62+, children 5 and under are free. The fair provides plenty of waPhoto By ys for Washington residents to affordably attend the fair. BECU sponsors opening day kids free weekend during which all kids get into the fair for free. They also sponsored this event the last weekend of the fair as well. On opening day, the Washington State Fair partners with the local ABC affiliate to sponsor a food donation on opening day; anyone who brings in a food item for donation gets free admission that day. 2017 was the Washington State Fair's second year sponsoring a school supply drive as well. Fairgoers could purchase discounted tickets through Val-Pak and Safeway. Local Costco stores sold fair admission season passes and O'Reilly Auto Parts sold discounted rodeo tickets. 

There were quite a few themed days throughout the 2017 Washington State Fair. Each Thursday of the fair was dubbed "Pierce County Thursdays." Through some market research conducted by the fair when they re-branded in 2012, the fair team realized that many Pierce County residents did not come to the fair because it had gotten too big and was, in a way, overwhelming to have in their county. "We wanted to show our appreciation to Pierce County residents and get them back at the fair," says Howard. 

Pierce county residents could print off 2 for 1 admission coupons from the website or get them from Val-Pak. This deal was also heavily advertised on television. The fair offered 2 for 1 concert tickets; the first 1000 people got a reusable grocery bag with the old, pre-2012 fair logo. "Attendance was up on Thursdays and we think these promotions definitely contributed to that," says Howard. 

The last Friday of the fair is named "Blue Friday;" anyone wearing Seattle Seahawks gear and entering through the blue gate got a free admission ticket to come back Sunday for the ultimate tailgate party. The Washington State Fair screens all Seahawks games throughout the fair and the last Saturday of the fair, the Seattle Seahawks cheerleaders: the Seagals, performed at the fair. On Labor Day, the fair hosts an End Of Summer Bash. Last year, they hosted a paid concert for fairgoers to enjoy but, according to Howard, it didn't work very well. This year they had a free concert in the grandstand featuring the Washington Legends tribute band. The concert featured the songs of HeArt and Jimmi Hendrix. Fairgoers could sample Washington wine, beer, and food. 

Mondays of the Washington State Fair are military appreciation days during which military personnel, their family, and their dependents are admitted into the fair free. The fair also features an Asian Pacific Cultural day with asian-focused food and entertainment. Another huge hit is Fiesta: the fair hosts big Hispanic artists for free and they perform twice during the day. The fair also celebrated the 100th birthday of the antique carousel on the grounds. 

The concert lineup for the 2017 Washington State Fair was certainly fantastic. This year the fair featured Nickleback, Lady Antebellum, Steven Tyler, Granger Smith, Easton Corbin, Melissa Etheridge, the Beach Boys, the I Love The 90s tour, Hank Williams Jr., Casting Crowns, Modest Mouse, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Jason Aldean among others. All of the concerts sold extremely well but Lady Antebellum, Hank Williams Jr., Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Jason Aldean were the best sellers with Earth, Wind, and Fire being the top act. 

In addition to large concerts, the fair booked several ground and strolling acts for fairgoers to enjoy. This was the second year that the fair hosted a free superhero headquarters exhibit which featured DC and Marvel superheroes. The characters did meet and greets with fans and there were picture taking stations along the way so that waiting in line was little more enjoyable for fairgoers. The fair also featured two paid exhibits: a large insect exhibit with real insects and some giant animatronic ones for $7 and Big Washington's Imagination Station for $5. 

Some other ground acts included a slapstick comedy act, street beat musicians, Meghan Lindsey from the Voice, Roberto the Magnificent's comedic show, hypnotist shows, a one-man band, stilt walkers dressed as unicorns, and costumed characters dressed as a chicken and a rabbit which entertained fairgoers son the people-mover and throughout the fairgrounds.
 
The 2017 Washington State Fair featured lots of new and fan-favorite foods. The ever-popular Fisher scone created an ice cream this year which debuted at 9 locations around the fair. "They kept the ingredients a secret and sold little cups for just $2," says Howard. Puyallup River Brewing made a raspberry scone ale exclusively for the fair. Also new this year was Puyallup Pro which featured gluten free food and Stu's Fresh Fruit which sold smoothies and fresh fruit bowls. For the first time this year the fair had food stands which sold insects: scorpions, Chile-roasted grasshoppers, and BBQ crickets. The stand also featured exotic kangaroo sausage.

The Washington State Fair uses Funtastic Shows as their carnival midway provider. This year, Funtastic Shows brought a new ride: Circus Jumbo which was extremely popular with all ages of fairgoers. Funtastic shows uses the Funcard System at the Washington State Fair and brought about 75 rides this year. The Washington State Fair ha about 9 rides that are on the fairgrounds permanently. 

The fair also has a huge 4-H and FFA presence each year. Fine arts exhibits and contests are very popular; there are about 100 contests hosted at the fair for everything from food to photography to knitting. Livestock showing and competitions are held at the state level. Anyone competing in livestock competitions have to compete in Munroe at the Evergreen Fair before they can compete at the Washington State Fair. 

The fair team advertises the Washington State Fair through most of the traditional advertising mediums. A large portion of their budget is spent on television advertising and they use radio to mainly advertise their concerts. The Washington State Fair also uses billboards and includes an 8 page insert about the fair in all the large local newspapers. Howard controls the fair's social media sites; they mainly use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Howard runs lots of contests through Facebook. "We have grown our social media presence tremendously in the past few years and we've found it to be immensely helpful," says Howard.

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