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Wisconsin State Fair down 7%
Murphy provides 54 ride midway

10/4/2007

By MCW Staff

Photo courtesy of Wis. State Fair

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WEST ALLIS, WI - 801,420 people attended the 11-day Wisconsin State Fair held August 2 through 12. Heat and several days of rain combined to keep attendance 7% below 2006 numbers.

Admission to the fair was $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and the disabled, $3 for youth 7 - 11 and free to children 6 and under. Parking was $9 per vehicle and $20 per bus.

Many innovative gate promotions were offered to drive attendance. On opening day, Piggly Wiggly and the Hunger Task Force combined with the fair to offer $1 admission to those who brought 2 non-perishable food items. Over 106,000 pounds of food were donated by the 33,000+ people taking advantage of the promotion.

On Monday August 6th, the fair partnered with the FOX affiliate (Fox 6) for a $6 before 6 admission promotion. Visitors had to log onto the WisconsPhoto By Wis. State Fairin State Fair or FOX 6 website to get a certificate for the $2.00 discount. In spite of the 90 degree heat, over 10,000 certificates were redeemed.

One new program the fair was very proud to implement this year is the Community/Charity Fair Experience Ticket Program. Under this initiative, sponsors could give back a portion of the fair tickets they received as a part of their investment that would then be donated to either a charity or community group of their choice. The Wisconsin State Fair would then match the donated tickets one for one. 1150 tickets were donated and a very generous anonymous donor contributed 4000 tickets to the program. The tickets were circulated to over 51 groups in the surrounding Milwaukee and statewide Wisconsin area. The feedback from the groups was incredibly positive and thousands of families were able to experience the fair that otherwise might not have had the opportunity.

For advance sales, the fair offered a FAIR DEAL Promotion April through June to save $3.00 on gate admission. Tickets could be purchased online at wistatefair.com, at the fair Box Office or at participating Pick 'N Save Stores throughout southeastern Wisconsin. This was the third year for the promotion which proved again to be very successful. At the completion of the third month, over 290,000 tickets totaling in excess of $1.4 million dollars in gate admission revenue were sold one month before opening day. The Fair Deal also offered All-You-Can-Ride Weekday Midway Wristbands for $12.50 (a $7.50 savings) which garnered an additional$218,000 in revenue.

Spectacular Attractions, owned by Jerry Murphy again operated the Midway at the 2007 Wisconsin State Fair. They have held the contract since the 70s and their current contract continues through 2011. Murphy said the fair didn't go well this year due to the extreme heat and poor response to the promotions.

The Midway had 52 rides including four new rides - Viper, Extreme, Wave Swinger and Genesis. On opening day, Thursday, August 2, the public could pay $1 per ride on the Midway from 10am until 6pm. Murphy said he and the fair were "...going to reevaluate our marketing and promotions from this year... to come up with new, exciting promotions".

In agriculture, the Governor's Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction resulted in 28 auctioned animals including steer, barrows and lambs, raising $156,250. A portion of the auction proceeds benefit the youth exhibiting the champion animals for youth scholarships. The Grand Champion Crossbred Steer, weighing in at 1315 pounds, sold for $35,000 with the winning bid from Northland Explosives.

The fair keeps track of some interesting statistics they provide to the public. For instance, 172,800 bottles of Dasani water were sold during the event. The Wisconsin Baker's Association sold 355,173 Cream Puffs, the New Berlin Lion's Club sold 95,000 ears of corn, over 720,000 lbs of ice were used during the event as were 6,696,000 feet of toilet paper.

According to Kathleen O'Leary Director of Marketing & Sponsorship for the Wisconsin State Fair, the fair increased online spending by 30% with zip code targeting and creative messaging on high reach sites such as weather.com and admails with Chicago Tribune and JS Online. Home page sponsorship on Milwaukeemoms.com and email newsletters to 4,000 subscribers with ticket incentives were also successful endeavors.

"The e-marketing as a whole, was very aggressive utilizing a large database compiled from previous and present ticket and concert sales as well as website database compilation" said O'Leary, In fact, the fair's website had almost 20,000, hits this year with over 192,000 unique visitors.

In addition to the big e-marketing push, traditional media was also purchased to maintain a constant presence leading up to the fair. The media mix included radio, print, outdoor, transit and broadcast TV. Regular outdoor billboards were augmented by digital billboards in high traffic highway locations and offered flexible messaging options.

The goal of the campaign was to create awareness not just in Milwaukee but also in markets 70+ miles outside of Milwaukee In fact, the fair spent less than 50% of it's budget in the Milwaukee market.

Led by Executive Director Randy Prasse, the fair management team consists of a seasoned team of professionals including CFO and Deputy Director Craig Barkelar, Entertainment and Special Events Director Bruce Sullivan, Director of Public Relations and Communications Patrice Harris, Director of Marketing and Sponsorship Kathleen O'Leary, Director of Exhibitor Services Steve Reinhardt and Manager of Events Services and Tickets Andy Schmidt. Each individual brings a unique background and high level of experience to the fair.

The 2008 Wisconsin State Fair, presented by U.S. Cellular, will take place Thursday, July 31 through Sunday, August 10 at the Wisconsin State Fair Park.

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