The 12 day Indiana State Fair ended its run with 870,052 visitors, up 6% from 2005 numbers. A diverse and start-studded concert line-up, special exhibits and 150th anniversary events were credited for the good numbers according to Andy Klotz, Publicity and Media Relations Director for the event. “We positioned all programming as having some relation to the 150th celebration, which was key to the overall theme of the fair”, said Klotz. “We had a Giant (two story) Pink Birthday Cake that covered our Gift Shop in the center of the fairgrounds, a special tractor parade with 92 tractors, headline entertainment every night instead of the usual 5 nights and special awards and ribbons”, he added.
Gate admission was $6 at the gate, $5 in advance and kids 5 and younger were free. Prices have remained constant since 2001. The fair oper
ates on a 12 million dollar budget subsidized by riverboat casino admissions and the state’s mil tax. Several of the entrance gates are drive-through where tickets are collected at each vehicle. For the first time, the fair sold admission tickets through their website. The sales had a “soft” opening and were not heavily promoted so sales were minimal. No bugs were reported in the system however so the fair plans to expand the service next year to capture the Internet-savvy consumers.
In conjunction with 150th anniversary celebration activities, all displays in all building were changed to reflect the celebration. A unique exhibit, entitled “Our Fair Story”, focused on the fair from past to present. The exhibit was popular with fair guests who had an opportunity to reminisce about the fair’s past with their families.
The fair had 129 food contracts, including 77 outside non-food contracts, 40 Machinery Field contracts and 176 Expo Hall contracts. Major food vendors were Carousel Foods, Indiana Beef Cattle Assoc. and Mike Miller Foods. Vendor sales were also reported to be up over last year.
The fair’s media effort also focused on reminding guests that there was a big party in Indianapolis and they were invited. Like most fairs with a limited advertising budget the fair leverages paid media with plenty of “earned media” and promotions. “We include all outlets in the central Indiana area in the media buy and work with them to be on site, align with various entertainment features and assist in obtaining interviews, on-air promotions, ticket giveaways, etc.”, said Klotz. While the general market advertising focused on the traditional high points of the fair, family value, animals, agriculture and entertainment, public relations stories and media sponsors focused on different segments of the fair. Stories about the $60 million in renovations to the buildings since the mid-1990s, new exhibits and food offerings such as deep fried candy bars all peaked the media’s interest. The midway, free stage entertainment, children’s programming, senior citizen’s events and concerts were all highlighted by media sponsors whose audience segment these activities were most popular with. By fostering a partnership mentality with their media partners, the fair received a ratio of more than 3 to 1 free to paid media. This enabled the fair to promote all the activities the fair has to offer that are not part of a general market campaign.
Opening night a free concert by Sandi Patti and the Indianapolis Symphony was presented in the grandstand. Another free night featured Raven Symone of Disney Channel and Cosby Show fame. The WFMS free stage also had entertainers every day highlighted by Pat Boone and Darryl Worley. Other entertainment included two nights of PCRA Rodeo, Harness Racing, Ortho Indy Cheerleading Competition and National City Band Day. Paid concerts were Michael W. Smith with Third Day and Jars Of Clay, Rascal Flatts with Gary Allen, Big and Rich, Kid Rock, Brad Paisley and Kanye West. Ticket prices for the concerts ranged from $25 to $65.
North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) provided the midway for the event, featuring many special price days. Farrow Shows, part of the NAME organization began playing the fair 20 years ago in 1987. NAME plays the fair a flat fee and the current contract runs for three years with two three year options.
The layout of the carnival was essentially the same as in previous years but the show featured a new spinning coaster on the midway themed “Mad Mouse” from Fabbri and an Remix 2 from Tivoli. The spinning coaster stands 92 x 57 and has over 1,00 feet of track. Unfortunately, the debut of the ride was marred when a 24-year old woman was thrown from the ride on Saturday afternoon, after being reinspected the ride was allowed to reopen on Sunday. The woman suffered only minor injuries and was treated and released from the hospital.
Other rides on the midway included the Blizzard, Century Wheel, White Water Flume, Giant Wheel, Fire Ball, Thunderbolt, Round Up, Yo Yo, Double Shock, Pharaoh’s Fury, Tilt-A-Whirl, Raiders, Carousel, Wacky Worm, Rockin Tug, Balloon Race, Safari Train, among others.
NAME featured many promotion and pricing plans for fair guests. A following is a list of the pricing offered at the fair:
“Sneak A Peek” Wednesday, August 9 : 5 – 10 pm $20
“All Day Ride Survival” Thursday, August 10 : Noon – 11 pm $23
“Midnight Madness” Friday, August 11 : 8 pm – Midnight $20
“Family Day” Monday, August 14 : Noon – 6 pm $20
“Family Day” Tuesday, August 15 : Noon – 6 pm $20
“Munchkins on the Midway” Wednesday, August 16 : Noon – 4 pm $10
(Kiddie Rides only)
“All Day Ride Survival” Thursday, August 17 : Noon – 11 pm $23
“Midnight Madness” Friday, August 18 : 8 pm – Midnight $20
“Last Blast” Sunday, August 20 : 4 – 10 pm $20
From Indianapolis NAME’s route included the Eastern States Exhibition (Big “E”), the South Carolina State Fair, the Mid-South Fair, the Kentucky State Fair and the Canadian National Exhibition.