Columbus – Despite a first weekend of searing heat the Ohio State Fair rebounded with beautiful 80 degree weather the second week to reach an attendance of 814,152, slightly up over 2005’s numbers. Record heat in the Midwest the fist week kept initial crowds light.
Christina Minier, Director of P.R. and Marketing for the Ohio State Fair, said the fair has been working on grounds improvements which helped bring attendance back up during the second week. They increased trash removal, added flowers, benches and shade areas and improved safety and security measures, hoping to provide a quality experience for Ohio State Fair customers.
Gate admission for the fair was $8 for adults, $7 for youth and seniors. Advance sale discount coupons were available at Kroger, Ticketmaster and participating AAA locations for $6. Admis
sion on opening day was only $2 courtesy of WBNS and the Ohio News Network. Monday, August 7th was Family Value Day, one of best attended days of the fair, sponsored by Meijer and NBC4. Until 6pm adults are admitted for the children’s admission price and children are admitted free. In addition, two for one wristbands were available until 6pm for midway rides.
A full slate of grandstand entertainment included a sold out Rascal Flatts show in Crew Stadium, REO Speedwagon, Jo Dee Messina, America, Kenny Rogers with the Oak Ridge Boys, CeCe Winans, Aly and AJ, Bo Bice and Steven Curtis Chapman. For the first time, print at home ticketing was used for the concerts through Ticketmaster. Minier reported that the program was very successful.
New attractions and entertainment included Wild World of Animals, the Purina Incredible Dog Team Challenge, the Great American Spam Competition, Masters of The Chainsaw, an “Ugliest Decorated Cake” competition and the Palace of Illusions featuring sword swallowers, fire eaters and illusions.
On the agricultural front, the number of exhibitors was similar to years past and the 4-H rolled out a new small animal day to provide for growth in this category. The annual Sale Of Champions broke two records, one for Reserve Grand Champion Market Lamb (record was set at $16,750 in 2004) and the other for Reserve Grand Champion Barrow (record was set at $16,150 in 2003). The Reserve Grand Champion Lamb, exhibited by Andrew Johnson was purchased by Kale Marketing, J.D. Equipment and Burkhart Farm Center for $17,500. The Reserve Grand Champion Burrow, exhibited by
Nicholas Barney was purchased for $18,000 by Huffman’s Market, Direct Feeds / Show Rite, Jim May Auto Sales and Ohio Horse Racing Council.
On the midway, Amusements Of America, owned by the five Vivona Brothers, Morris, John, Sebastian (Babe) Dominic and Phil, brought 69 rides to the midway. New rides this year were Jane Baxter’s Space Roller and a Hang Ten. Ride gross was also up this year to $1,635,895, up over $30,000 from 2005.
The midway was abuzz with a new promotion called “The World’s Largest Wedding”, conducted on the Giant Wheel with local radio station WBNS-FM – 97.1. The station ran a two-week promotion qualifying couples for a chance to renew their vows and a seat on the Giant Wheel. The couple in the cart at the bottom when the Wheel stopped received a honeymoon vacation.
Amusements Of America has provided the midway for the fair since 1993 and the fair is currently in the process of reviewing proposals from three carnivals, Amusements Of America, North American Midway Entertainment (N.A.M.E.) and Wade Shows to provide the midway at the fair in the future. One interesting aspect of the RFP is that it does not include a financial bid component. Monies paid to the fair for rides and concessions are listed in the RFP and the carnivals compete based upon the rides they will bring, their reputation and the experience and overall operation of the company. The fair will make a decision for the new carnival contract by the end of September.
The Ohio State Fair is known for its large variety of food stands featuring 220 stands this year. Food vendors include Concessions by Cox, American Mid-East Dairy Association, Ohio Roast Corn, Hollman Concessions ( Kevin Koski ) with fried dough and corn dogs. Food stands pay a percentage to the fair and overall gross was down less than one percent, which was attributed to the extreme heat and humidity the first weekend.
Asked about the increasing competition for the entertainment dollar Minier said “we realize that the entertainment dollar and time is limited. We are in the business of providing an experience. Our goal is to provide a quality event at a great price. We offer numerous attractions... like the Butter Cow and ODNR Park, things you can only do or see at the Fair. So many people have great experiences and memories of the Fair and they want to share that with their family and friends. In addition to the quality of the event, we focus on value. The Fair is extremely affordable compared to other entertainment options.”