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Superstars and Superheroes theme is a hit


By MCW Staff

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Sacramento – The 2006 California State Fair ended with an attendance of 941,502, a 2% increase from the 2005 fair. Admission to the fair was $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 for kids. The fair used an electronic ticketing system from Omni for the second straight year. The fair cited three reasons for the attendance increase. First, the concert lineup led by Ciara was very strong. Second, the fair offered an excellent value for its patrons and third, they have an excellent level of programming. Assistant General Manager Erica Manuel said the fair’s mission is “is to showcase California’s culture, industry and lifestyle. Our award-winning exhibits and agricultural displays are consistently cited as reasons why people come back each year.”

As this year’s theme indicated, Superheroes and Superstar impersonators took center stage at the fair this year. Stars included the original Lois Lane, Noell Neill; Lou Ferrigno, the Incredible Hulk and Same Jones of Flash Gordon fame.

The fair worked hard to offer an excellent value to its customers. Two popular promotions the fair hopes to leverage for several years are:

1. Kids Day Tuesdays – Every Tuesday kids 12 and under are admitted free and the carnival offered $1 rides all day. This resulted in great attendance on a typically slow day, and the carnival saw increased revenues. Redemption doubled over the same day in 2005 and overall 250% more $1 ride tickets were redeemed in 2006 than in 2005.

2. Carnival Combo – New for 2006, the fair offered a carnival combo ticket good for admission plus 10 rides. The cost was $24.95 in advance (savings of 50% off regular price) and available exclusively through the fair’s retail partner Raley’s & Bel-Air. On site, they offered the same combo package for $31 for kids and $39 for adults (more than 20% off the regular price). More than 15,000 10-ride cards were redeemed in the first year.

“Demonstrating value has never been more important than it has been in recent years. Our fair competes directly with other family entertainment options like theme parks, movies and concert venues”, said Manuel. “We started promoting our free concert series two months earlier to encourage people to see a free concert at the Fair rather than pay for a high-priced ticket at another venue. We also offered deeper midway and admission discounts aimed at families, and we had a variation of the pay-one-price option for carnival rides to battle the theme park model.”

The free concert series is a huge part of the fair’s marketing strategy. Big name acts are available free with fair admission and reserved seats are also available for $10 or $20 depending on the show. The lineup for the fair is listed below:
Kenny LogginsFriday, August 11, 2006$20
Fab Four (A Beatles tribute)Tuesday, August 15, 2006n/a
Loverboy Wednesday, August 16, 2006$10
Boyz II MenThursday, August 17, 2006$20
REO Speedwagon Friday, August 18, 2006$20
LifehouseTuesday, August 22, 2006$20
Collective Soul Wednesday, August 23, 2006$20
Sinbad (comedian)Thursday, August 24, 2006$20
Village PeopleFriday, August 25, 2006$10
Rick SpringfieldTuesday, August 29, 2006$20
Ted NugentWednesday, August 30, 2006$20
Sawyer BrownThursday, August 31, 2006$20
TeslaFriday, September 1, 2006$20
CiaraMonday, September 4, 2006$20

The closing concert, Ciara, helped to increase attendance by over 30,000 on Labor Day from 2005, resulting in the second highest Labor Day attendance ever.

Research conducted before the fair indicated people believed admission pricing was reasonable, but that the carnival and concessions presented too much additional cost for them. Working with long time midway provider Ray Cammack Shows, the fair developed several promotions to combat the perception indicated by the survey. RCS and the fair offered $1 ride Tuesdays, where all rides were $1 all day, unlimited ride wristbands on Friday and Labor Day and combo tickets which were good for admission plus 10 rides. These tickets were available both in advance and at the gate.

RCS has held the contract at the California State Fair for eight years. In 2006, they extended their current contract for an additional 10 years. In 2004, they debuted a separate kiddie park area which has met with enormous success for children and families. RCS brought the G-Force ride to the fair for the first time this year. RCS Marketing Director Tony Fiori said it generated big crowds and lots of excitement. “We had an excellent run this year”, said Fiori, “I believe we were up in the 8- 10% range and the promotions we developed were very successful”. The season has been very good for RCS including a best-ever year at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa. Asked about the recent purchase of the Typhoon coaster from Santa’s Village in East Dundee, Illinois, Fiori was uncharacteristically tight lipped. “Stay tuned”, he said.

In addition to the carnival and concerts, the fair has a large selection of food stands, featuring approximately 90 food vendors. Some of the vendors included: Dugans BBQ, Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls, Chicken Charlie; Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cakes and more. Overall, food revenue was up at least 5%.

The California State Fair is an independent state agency established by law and governed primarily by the California Department of Food and Agriculture codes. The California Exposition and State Fair is self-sufficient, receiving no government funding for its annual $30 million dollar operating budget. The Fair and Exposition grounds have an estimated $250 million dollar impact on the surrounding region.

The 2007 fair dates are scheduled for August 17 to Sept. 3rd.

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