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DELAWARE STATE FAIR ENDS UP 2.3%
WADE SHOWS ENDS SUCCESSFUL EAST COAST ROUTE

8/25/2006

By MCW Staff

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Harrington – 284,436 people passed through the gates of the 2006 Delaware State Fair, up 2.3% from last year. Attendance, ride gross and fair entries were all up this year leading fair organizers to proclaim the 2006 fair a success. Tricia Southard, Director of Public Relations and Marketing Director for the fair, said they had “one heck of a grandstand lineup, an extensive marketing campaign to promote the shows and unlimited wristband ride days”. “We feel we’re on the continued road to success”.

Harrington is located on Delaware’s Eastern Shore on Route 13 just south of Dover. The fair is 1 ½ to 2 hours away from the closest major metropolitan area, so many of their customers come from the rural, local area. Gate admission is $6 for adults 10+ and the fair offers numerous discount and free days. The fair uses a combination of electronic and paper ticketing. All online tickets are printed at home with a unique barcode that is scanned at the fair. During the fair, paper tickets are also generated and then scanned at the gate. Traditional discounted advance sale gate admissions were sold and the fair added a Dr. Pepper promotion that was met with “minimal success”. Fair guests could receive a “buy one get one free” offer when they presented a specially marked can of Dr. Pepper.

The fair offers a large lineup of free and grandstand entertainment. The grandstand lineup included: two demolition derbies, Larry the Cable Guy, Yellowcard with The Ataris, a monster truck show, Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy, Peter Frampton with 38 Special (standing in for Foreigner), Gretchen Wilson, The Beach Boys, and Brad Paisley with Restless Heart and Eric Church. Seating prices ranged from $10 to $40.

Vocal Trash, The Terry Fator Show; Hypnomania! with Travis Fox; The Paul Lumberjack Show; Marcan Tiger Preserve, Tigers of India; Grandpa Cratchet; Commerford Petting Zoo; and a locally produced synthetic ice show rounded out the free entertainment.

Livestock entries saw an increase of 7% this year. Goat and horse entries increased while swine entries decreased. This may be due to the fact that as more of the State’s farmland is being sold to commercial and home developers, goats require less land to raise and are becoming more popular for those that want to continue to keep in touch with the State’s Agricultural heritage. “Agriculture remains Delaware’s number one industry”, said Southard.

Food vendors are drawn from “40 milers”, local businesses such as Pepsi Bottling Ventures and large concessionaires such as Little Richard’s who has multiple stands at the fair.

Frank Zaitshik’s Wade Shows provided the carnival midway for the eighth year, providing 47 rides and an increase in gross of 5.4% over 2005. “The fair just keeps getting better and better”, said Zaitshik. Jane Baxter’s Space Roller made its debut appearance at the fair, providing a unique look for the midway. Wade Show’s second unit, managed by Jimmy Danton provided the rides. Jon Ketchum serves as concession manager and Mike Thomas was assistant general manager. This unit just came from New York where they played two events with Long Island based Fair Productions. The Brookhaven Fair and the Nassau Coliseum Fair were both hampered by bad weather but Zaitshik said, “The move makes sense in terms of the routing of our units and savings costs. Instead of going to Michigan, back to the East Coast and back to Michigan again, we only have one major move now.” This marked the first year for an all East Coast venture for one of the Wade Shows’ units.

Wade Shows used Soy Biodiesel for its generators this year, providing interesting headlines and generating quite a bit of publicity. Zaitshik said the price was about the same as regular diesel. He felt that the show was doing its part to end the country’s dependence on foreign oil and the Biodiesel is supposed to be more environmentally friendly. Zaitshik hoped to continue the program wherever Biodiesel was available on his route.

An interesting fact about the Delaware State Fair is that it has year-round slot machines on the ground, providing for some unique marketing challenges. Southard said the impact on the gaming by the fair and the gaming on the fair needed to be studied further before drawing any definitive conclusions but the fair was aware of issues such as disruption of “high rollers” and that cash spending and winning that may affect both businesses.

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