Salt Lake City -- The Sept. 6 - 16th Utah State Fair posted a 9% increase in attendance this year, rising to 314,565 guests from 289,257. The fair enjoyed beautiful weather every day of the event. The attendance figures were the "best for the Utah State Fair in 25 years", said Rick Frenette, General Manager. He said he and his staff had been working hard the past three years making major changes to the fair's presentation, layout and opportunities for fair guests. "The changes are finally paying off", Frenette added.
Admission to the fair was $8 for adults 13 and over, $6 for children 5 to 12 and seniors and free for those under 5 years of age. Discount tickets were available through Smith's Food and Drug Stores for $6 from August 1st through Sept. 17th. Advance carnival wristband vouchers were also available through the
stores for $15; $5 off the regular price. The pre-sale wristband vouchers were available though Sept. 5.
The fair's big promotion is the Monday Family Value Day on Monday, Sept. 10th, sponsored by KUTV. The promotion offered free gate admission for anyone age 12 and under and adults paid the youth price of $6.00. All-You-Can Ride carnival wristbands were offered two for the price of one. The promotion was modeled on the very successful promotion Frenette began while manager of the Ohio State Fair.
Tom Atkins' Mighty Thomas Shows provided the carnival for the second straight year, posting an enormous ride gross increase of 40%. The show grossed $751,553 in 2007, up from $540,019 in 2006.
Frenette said the carnival brought 30 rides, including 4 new rides for 2007. Atkins lays out the midway differently each year to give the customers a new look and feel.
Food and beverage concessions have also seen a big improvement under Frenette's leadership. Grosses have gone from $900,000 to $1.4 million in just two years. In 2007 alone, food grosses were up over $300,000, an increase of just over 25%. The fair has been doing their own booking for just two years. Prior to that, all the food was under one contract without convienent vendor locations. The public has responded very positively to the changes implemented.
The fair was very fortunate to have booked America's Got Talent winner Terry Fator for the event this year. Fator won the contest just before the fair began and generated a lot of publicity. Instead of the 15 shows booked, Fator performed just four shows, but they were so popular, the Friday and Saturday shows were moved into the grandstand. Each 9:30 pm show drew over 3,000 in the larger venue.
Other acts in the grandstand including pricing and attendance were:
Weird Al Yankovic $24 3,500 attendance
Tree63 Free 2,000
Grand Funk Railroad $24 1,500
Gary Allan $26 3,800
SheDAISY Free 4,200
Jordan Pruitt $10 800
Country Gold Tour Free 2,500
In discussing fair advertising Frenette said the emphasis has certainly changed in recent years. Previously radio and television commanded the bulk of the ad dollars. Today however, "we are doing less TV and adding more on-line advertising. We produced ads just for YouTube and MySpace web sites and two commercials that play only on our web site", said Frenette. Through their online efforts and at the fair itself, the fair has gathered a database of phone numbers and sends daily text messages during the fair to those that have agreed to receive them. Traditional media, especially, radio still plays an important role in fair advertising. Frenette cited grandstand entertainment as one area where radio remained very important. He did caution that that scenario was "changing also".
The Utah State Fair has an annual year-round budget of $4.2 million with $2.7 million dedicated to the fair. 2008 dates for the event are Sept 4 - 14.