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Pima County Fair is Striking Gold
Carnival gross up 5.4%


By Michelle M. Joyner Weiner

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The Pima County Fair located in Tucson, Arizona, has been having its annual fair for 103 years. Pima County Fair attendance continued to climb in 2013 said Launa Rabago, Marketing Manager, "our attendance is 13% over last year.  We've been setting and breaking attendance and revenue records ever since the economic crisis of 2009."

The Pima County Fair, a non-profit, private corporation was established in 1975 by Pima County to operate the fairgrounds and the Pima County Fair. Any profits earned from operations are put back into the facility for improvements.

Launa Rabago and her team are social media savvy drawing both local and tourists alike to the event.  The fair has captured the use of social media by offering prizes to those who help solicit the fair on Insta-gram, Twitter and Facebook. 

The Pima County fair draws from diverse ethnic backgrounds, according to Rabago, "We understand our unique and culturally diverse audience and book all entertainment accordingly.  We try to provide a different concert segment each night of concerts and may 'push the envelope' a bit on our selections but we had huge turnouts each night we had a concert.  We booked everything from classic rock to new rock to rap to country to Spanish language concerts."

Change may be in the air for 2014 said Rabago, "we may decide to make a change or two on a concert selection and there is always room for improvement.  We have our own permanent exhibits; Creepy Crawly Slimy and Kiddie Kingdom that we designed and continue to add to keep people visiting the attractions.  I think we will improve the VIP seating for concerts to somehow add to the experience."  For 2013, the musical acts were free with admission to the fair and upgraded concert seats were available for $10.00 and sold only at the fair.  

The promotions have been the same for many years because, Rabago said,  "they work".  In 2013 some new fair events were introduced.

"We spent about $250,000 on local advertising and received nearly $400,000 of in-kind advertising in addition to the buy we place.  We purchase every local medium here. We get about 250,000 attendees so I figure we spend about $1.00 per head on advertising." 

The media plan includes outdoor billboards, park and bus benches, radio, television and  print in both Spanish and English.  They also pay for Facebook and social media advertising.  Daily promotions are created to reach various demographics through outreach and specific target marketing campaigns. Area promotions are designed to take advantage of foot traffic and visibility.

The Pima County Fair also took into consideration the economic impact on families, keeping admission prices to $8.00 for adults (11 and older), $3.00 for children (6 to 10) and anyone under five was free.  Parking was $5.00 with shuttles to/from the parking lots.  There were specific times and promotions that would allow discounts such as opening day free admission with two (2) cans of unopened food.  They also allowed free admission with a Brueggers Bagels receipt for $5.00 or more.  They also offered free admission if an attendee presented a Wendy's Combo Meal receipt.  If an attendee brought in a 20 oz. bottle of Coke or Diet Coke, they would receive $5.00 off a $30.00 wristband which allowed unlimited carnival rides.  Each of these promotions had specific time restrictions.  The fair also incorporated a Military Appreciation Day and Senior Celebration Day offering $2.00 off the regular ticket price.  Another memorable mention allowed a free carnival ride for children who had read at least three books. 

Free entertainment included Hypnotists, Birds Show, Creep Factor Show, Pacific Animal Productions, Fire Dancers, Acrobats, Baboon Show, Frisbee Dogs, Pig Races, Petting Zoo, Pony Trail Rides along with one hundred local entertainers and demonstrators.  Food items included: Gator on Stick, Bacon Wrapped Turkey Legs, Bacon Flavored Cotton Candy, and Deep Fried PBJ. 

The fairgrounds are located on a 640-acre event complex with five stages, three exhibit buildings, equestrian arenas/barns, motorized arenas, a 15-acre carnival midway, outdoor exhibit areas and two paid parking entrances.  The grounds are wheelchair accessible with a tented shuttle drop off/pick up outside the main gate.  In 2013, the Pima County Fair was held April 18 - 28, 2013.  Gates opened at 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, Midway 3 p.m.; 10 a.m. on the weekends, Midway 11 a.m.  You could upgrade your ride purchase for $20 to a FAST PASS and get into the FAST PASS carnival ride lane for faster service.  They had early morning admission for participants in 4-H, equestrian events and livestock activities decreasing a wait in long lines for those not enjoying the carnival/midway until later in the day.

The carnival, provided by Ray Cammack Shows has partnered with Pima County Fair for over 25 years.   2013 proved  to be the fair's "best year ever."  Carnival grosses were up by 5.4%.

Launa Rabago and her team, aware of the recent tragedy in Boston said that security is always an issue, they " closely with the Dept of Homeland Security and their recommendations for large scale events and increase our security measures based upon attendance.  We have regular discussions to keep our security, safety, medical and emergency plan current to attendance sizes as well as address any intelligence that may be brought to our attention regarding the need for increased security."

Planning is already underway for the 2014 event, set to take place April 17 through April 27, 2014.

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