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Ohio State Fair -- "Best year since 2004"
Food and ride revenues also rise


By Ron Weber

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Attendance at this year's Ohio State Fair was 826,037, up 16,715 from 2008. The fair emphasized providing a quality event at a great value. One commercial specifically targeted "day trippers", played in the markets surrounding Columbus. "Our attendance and spending numbers show that consumers took advantage of the value of the fair, and chose the fair as a vacation or staycation", said Christina Leeds, Marketing Director.

Gate admission remained the same as in 2008, $10 for adults and $8 for youth and seniors. Discounted tickets were available at Kroger, AAA locations and Ticketmaster outlets for $6 which the fair strongly promoted in its advertising.

Social media like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Blogs, eCards, eNewsletters, texting were a big part of the fair's campaign in 2009. "We utilized all of these media to promote the fair, discounts, special events and instant happenings. We look to grow our use of these media in the future", said Leeds.

One excellent use of a new medium this year was the fair's use of a texting campaign to provide daily schedules and information via mobile web-enabled phones. Texting allowed the fair to instantly deliver the information to those interested in fair information.

More money was spent on internet related media in 2009 than in the past and additional funds, about 35% of the total, were spent in the outer markets of Dayton, Cincinnati and Toledo. The total marketing budget for the fair was $340,000, the same as in 2008.

Another new marketing initiative that had positive feedback was the online vendor coupon program. Final coupons numbers weren,t in yet but 170 fair vendors grossed $4,100,000 at the 2009 edition of the Ohio State Fair.

New food included deep fried buckeyes and deep fried pork chops on a stick. The top ten food vendors were the American Dairy Association, Schmidt's ( Schmidt Family ), JP's Barbecue ( Carol Maker ), Famous Gabby's ( Butch Ivory ), Candy Country Warehouse ( John Burke ), Concessions by Cox Food Corral ( Charlie Cox ), Ohio Roast Corn ( Lewis Harvell ), Ohio Poultry Association, Ohio Cattlemen's Association and Tracey Company ( Tracey Family ).

In the grandstand, Jeff Dunham was the best selling show. Alice Cooper with Blue Oyster Cult also did well as did Relient K, Keith Sweat, Demi Lovato and Eric Benet with Howard Hewett.

The Dunham booking was a positive change in direction because the fair has not booked a comedy act in the Celeste Center since the early 1990's.

On the grounds, the new Wild About Monkeys show drew great crowds and met with great success. World Championship Mutton Bustin' was also very well received by fair guests. The NASA Glen Journey to Tomorrow exhibit also attracted many visitors and offered free "astronaut" photos while lending an educational dimension to the entertainment.

On the midway, Amusements of America provided 70 rides, grossing $1,847,169. New rides for the fair included an Extreme (Remix), Sponge Bob Funhouse, Hard Rock Funhouse, Happy Viking and Kiddie Free Fall.

"The weather was great, great, great, very little rain during the fair", said Dominic Vivona, Sr. of Amusements of America. "It seems as though with the economy the way it is, the discount programs were an important factor with customer spending in the midway", he added.

Like many other state-run or supported institutions, some of the activities at the fair were facing the chopping block with governments tightening their belts. The fund that supports junior fair activities was reduced by $108,000. "We will be meeting soon to determine how these cuts will affect the fair in the future", concluded Leeds.

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