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2008 Indiana State Fair comes close to record
NAME on the midway with new Mega Drop
By Ron Weber, Editor
Indianapolis - The Indiana State Fair finished 108,401 people up over 2007's fair with a total attendance of 859,619. The number was just over 40,000 people off 2004's record pace.
Beautiful weather and value played a role in the event's success said fair Marketing Director Andy Klotz. "Knowing that everyone is watching their dollars a little more closely these days, we tried to emphasize the value that the Indiana State Fair offers. There aren't too many places that provide hours or even a full day of entertainment at our price, not to mention the ample free parking".
With higher gas prices, organizers believed that some people did come to the fair instead of taking a longer, more expensive trip somewhere else. However, it may have also kept some people from attending because their discretionary income is now going toward necessities instead of entertainment.
Gate pricing remained the same as in 2007; $8 for adults. Children 5 and younger were free. $7 discount admission tickets were available at Wal-Marts, CVS Pharmacies, Indiana Farm Bureau Offices and the Marten House Hotel.
Promotions also helped to create "buzz" for the fair. One of the new promotions included a combination admission/midway offer. Guests logging on to the fair's website by July 12th could order the combination wristband/admission ticket for $23, a $10 savings. After July 12th, the bundle sold for $27. Discounts were only available through July 30th.
Another program the fair attempted to administer was a new $5 after 5 p.m. admission on the second Wednesday of the fair. It was tied it in with a local charity, but the project didn't get established in enough time to make people aware of it, so the promotion didn't do as well as the fair had hoped.
Klotz said marketing the fair has become a challenge in an age of widely diversified media. "Not everyone reads the daily paper or even listens to the radio anymore, so it makes it harder to reach a broad audience with your message", he said. "What has helped us are all the wonderful sponsors and media partners we've developed". The fair has had success with companies taking ownership of an event or area at the fair and promoting it to their listeners or customers. This gives additional exposure to the many events at the fair in addition to their "general market" advertising.
Entertainment and grounds improvement also received positive attention from fair guests. "We were also bombarded with positive comments about the new covered bridge we added to the fairgrounds", said Klotz. He cited new attractions such as Scheer's Lumberjack Show and the Marcan Tigers of India for their capacity crowds throughout the run of the fair.
On the independent midway, the fair had approximately 130 different food concessions. The state commodity groups all had a major presence, including the Dairy Association, Beef Cattleman's Association, Pork Producers, Poultry Association and Sheep Association. Carousel Foods, LT Concessions, Jessop Candy Products, King's Food Service, Sutter's, Waggoner Concessions, Barto's and R.E. Smith all provided numerous foods locations around the grounds.
North American Midway Entertainment's Farrow and Mid-America units provided the midway for the fair with 46 rides. New to the fair this year was the Fabbri Mega Drop.
The show also added more ATMs and pursued corporate picnics of groups of 200-500. These efforts have proven to be successful during the week said Amber Swedgan, Director of Media and Communications for NAME. The Fair coordinated these bundled corporate packages with admission so corporate guests would have one price for admission and rides.
In addition to Amber, staff members at the Indiana State Fair for NAME included Danny Menge, General Manager Operations, Bobby Gill, Administration, Tim Merkel, Unit Manager, Greg Striowski, Concession Manager and Tricia Taylor, Director of Safety.
In a major change for 2009, the Indiana State Fair will be expanding to 17 days, adding five days to the front end of the event. One reason for expanding the event is the many 4-H events that occur in the days leading up to the official start to the fair. Beginning next year, these kids and their families will have the full flavor of the fair during their competitions. A second reason for the extension is to stretch the fair out over three weekends, including one weekend before area schools resume, giving families a little more flexibility in their fair planning during the hectic days at the end of the summer. "We are still discussing exactly how to reconfigure some of our events and programming, but it looks promising that we will bring back tractor pulls and maybe other motor sports events that first weekend", said Klotz.
Whatever the configuration of the lengthened event, Klotz promised a value packed event for 2009 fair guests.