The 2009 Minnesota State Fair was the best-attended Great Minnesota Get-Together of all time, drawing a total paid attendance of 1,790,497. Attendance surpassed the previous record set in 2001 by 27,521 guests. 97,000 more guests visited the 2009 fair than in 2008.
A perfect 12-day weather run, combined with a strong marketing emphasis on ways to save at the fair contributed to the success. Advertisements reinforced the theme that the fair was a close-to-home mini-vacation with affordable pricing.
"In an effort to offset the costs of getting to and from the fair, we held our regular admission and ride and game ticket prices to 2008 levels and asked our concessionaires to hold their prices as well", said Brienna Scheutte, Marketing and Communications Manager.
Regular gate pricing for 2009 was $11 for adults (13 & over); $9 for seniors (65 & over); and $8 for kids (5-12). Guests under age 5 were free. Discount admission tickets, good for any age, any day of the fair were available 30 days prior to opening day for $9.
The fair also offered several discount admission days including Thrifty Thursday where everyone 13 and over was admitted for just $9 and kids (5-12) were admitted for $6; Seniors days when seniors (65 & over) were admitted for $6; Kids days when kids (5-12) were admitted for $6; and Ticket Deal Tuesday when everyone 13 and over was admitted for $9.
A new promotional was added this year; Read & Ride Wednesday. On this day, guests presenting a public library card at the gate could take advantage of the following discounted admission prices:
Adults (13-64) $9
Seniors (65 & over) $6
Kids (5-12) $6
To offset fuel costs, the Minnesota State Fair offered extensive options for transportation, including free Park & Ride from 30 locations, $5 Express Bus service from 15 lots, free bicycle parking and discounted motorcycle parking. In addition, they offered an employee lot with free parking and a shuttle to the fairgrounds.
Fair officials said the event faced challenges marketing the fair including the ever increasing cost of print promotions and advertising coupled with ever decreasing circulation numbers. Radio and television viewership has also been fragmented with more stations available and commercial production costs increasing year after year.
The MSF consistently markets the event as a not-to-be-missed annual tradition, The Great Minnesota Get-Together. "This year, we peppered that message with all the ways guests could save before and during their visits to the fair, as well as the fact that there are so many free attractions and exhibits to take advantage of here", said Schuette.
In addition to more traditional marketing efforts, the Minnesota State Fair utilized its Facebook page and social marketing tool Twitter to interact with fans, get feedback and promote various events and attractions. The fair realized great success with both social media tools. The Minnesota State Fair Facebook page has more than 61,000 fans. The Twitter has more than 1,500 followers.
Total midway and Kidway ride and game gross during the 2009 fair (exclusive of the 15 other attractions on the fairgrounds not located in the Midway and Kidway areas; e.g. the Skyglider, Space Tower, Skyride, Haunted House, Go Carts, Old Mill, Skyscraper, Sling Shot, etc.) was $5,414,027.08; down 1.7% from 2008.
In an effort to create a more open environment and better pedestrian flow, some locations and infrastructure were altered. The MSF reduced the total number of rides from 68 in 2008 to 62 in 2009. Four new rides were offered on the midway and 2 new rides in the Kidway. The total number of rides in each area was 30 in the Midway and 32 in the Kidway.
The top ten grossing ride and game operations were as follows:
1. Crazy Mouse Spinning Roller Coaster - S.J. Entertainment
2. Sky Flyer - Reithoffer Equipment Co.
3. X-Treme - Demas Enterprises, Inc.
4. Techno Power - Wood Entertainment Co., Inc.
5. Space Roller - F & B Amusement Co.
6. Arabian Daze - Fun Attractions, LLC
7. Dragon Wagon - Showtime Rides, Inc.
8. Starship 3000 - Wood Entertainment Co.
9. Monkey Maze - Alamo Amusements, Inc.
10. Kite Flyer - Alamo Amusements, Inc.
1. Bottle Up - Candice P. Anderson
2. Balloon Pop Water Race - Thornberry Concessions
3. Gun Ball - SYD Concessions
4. Top Glo Water Race - Cassata Concessions
5. Whopper Water Race - Cassata Concessions
6. Ring-A-Bottle - JBS Concessions
7. Star Dart - Diversified Amusements, Inc.
8. Skeeball - John L. & Darlene D. Magel Concessions
9. Break-A-Plate - SYD Concessions
10. Goblets - Candice P. Anderson
The fair's food vendors realized an unaudited $1.1 million increase in total gross food and beverage sales (not including beer) compared with '08; a 4.6% increase. In total, gross sales of food and beverages were $25.2 million. Food vendors pay the fair 12.5% of gross sales, after taxes, for rental space.
More than 15 new foods were offered including beignets, brat burgers, breakfast and open-faced grilled Spam sandwiches, deep-fried Norwegian banana splits, the Fry Dog, pot roast sundaes, Texas steak dinner on-a-stick, peach glazed pig cheeks, sunfish filets, swedish meatballs and gravy, the Tornado Potato, chicken rice bowls, chocolate-covered watermelon and caprese salad on-a-stick. In total, vendors served up more than 500 different foods, 70 of which were on-a-stick.
Listed below are the top ten food vendors:
1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Co.
2. Cheese Curds - Cavallaro Concessions
3. Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar
4. Midwest Dairy Assn. of Minnesota All You Can Drink Milk
5. Corn Roast - Ribco Enterprises
6. Fresh French Fries
7. Minnesota Turkey Growers Assn.
8. Peterson's Chicken-N-Chops
9. Cheese Curds, Muskar Inc.
10. Giggles, Campfire Grill
The fair issued a total of 1,213 licenses, 71 for institutional exhibits, 219 for commercial exhibits (non-retail) and 923 granting concession (retail sale) privileges. 247 of the retail licenses were food/beverage concession licenses covering 300 food/beverage concession sites around the fairgrounds.
For entertainment, ShenaniGuns! Comedy Wild West Show debuted at the fair. The show was offered three times each day. Bleachers were packed to standing room only at almost all shows.
The paid Coliseum Shows were sponsored by WalMart and included Bonnie Raitt, O.A.R., Casting Crowns, Jason Aldean, garrison Keillor, Kid Rock & Lynyrd Skynyrd, REO Speedwagon, Styx & .38 Special, Jackson Browne, Randy Travis, Jeff Dunham and the free Amateur Talent Contest finals. Ticket prices for the other shows ranged from $23 to $66 with most seats in the $30-range.
The 2010 Minnesota State Fair will run Aug. 26 through Labor Day, Sept. 6.
Photos of the 2009 MN State Fair can be viewed in the MCW Photo Gallery - Click Here