The largest county fair in the world, the Los Angeles (L.A.) County Fair, celebrated its 91st year from August 30 to September 29.
The non-profit L.A. County Fair Association consists of 50 members and is a self-supporting organization. The Association has established a long-term lease with the County of Los Angeles to use the 487-acre Fairplex grounds, where more than 500 other events take place throughout the year. Any surplus revenue from events are used to maintain and develop the facility.
This year's attendance, about 1.43 million, was a decrease of about 2% from last year's attendance, about 1.47 million. The attendance record, 1.49 million, was set in 2011. Still, the 2013 fair had the fifth-highest attendance numbers in the fair's history. Despite the reduced attendance, the fair's $25 million revenue was a slight increase from 2012.
"I can't really put a finger on why there was a decrease in attendance. But during the first two weeks the weather was pretty warm. It's normally warm here, but we had a lot of high humidity this year, which was not normal. Other than that, we're not sure if it was the economy still or what," said Renee Hernandez, Communications & Public Relations Supervisor for the L.A. County Fair. "Being off slightly from 2012 wasn't bad at all."
This year was the second year that fair organizers decided to offer a Groupon for fair admission. For $19, guests could purchase admission for two (up to a $38 value), and for $35, guests could access admission for four (up to a $76 value).
"We offer a season pass too, which I don't think a lot of fairs have. The guests could either buy it at the fair or a Walgreens Pharmacy at a discounted price of $24.99," said Hernandez. "For Wild Wednesdays, we also partnered with the Mexican fast-food restaurant chain Del Taco and Farmer Boys, a chain restaurant known for its burgers. In addition, discount tickets were available on Thursdays with T-Mobile."
Another new combined promotion/attraction was "Star Trek: The Exhibition," a collection of authentic Star Trek memorabilia and props. According to Hernandez, the appearance at the L.A. County Fair was one of only a few throughout the United States. Entrance to the exhibit cost an extra $5. However, during a special Star Trek Day on September 14, guests wearing anything related to Star Trek were granted free admission from 10 am to 1 pm.
For the past 29 years, Ray Cammack Shows (RCS) has been the carnival operator for the L.A. County Fair. A provider of carnival entertainment since 1963, RCS serves more than 8 million customers each year. At this year's fair, guests could enjoy over 70 rides, including three new adult rides and four new "kiddie" rides.
"On September 21, RCS said they had their best day ever for ticket sales," said Hernandez. "Our guests love the spinning and fast rides so it's hard to say which is the most popular. We have two separate sections, one for the older children and adults and one for the kiddie' carnival."
In addition to shopping more than 1,000 products like the Miracle Whisk and cooling towels - a big hit in the hot weather - from about 650 vendors, guests could purchase all their favorite fair foods. One food vendor, Chicken Charlie, is a fair legend. Each year, he invents a new indulgent food to sell at the fair, and this year he introduced a Krispy Kreme burger: two glazed donuts, two meat patties, and two slices of cheese. In the past, he's served deep-fried Kool Aid, deep-fried frog legs, and totally fried avocados. For the more health-conscious consumer, Chicken Charlie offers a dish called "pineapple express:" half a pineapple carved out and filled with chicken or shrimp and rice.
"Other new items included a 1.5 pound chicken on a stick. It's one of those meals that a family could share. Last year, the same vendor had a big rib on a stick," said Hernandez.
Sponsored by Toyota, the L.A. County Fair's concert series is called the End of Summer Concert Series. This year's performers included Demi Lovato, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ke$ha, and Bad Company. Spanish-language entertainment included Ramon Ayala y Sus Bravos Del Norte and Los Tigres del Norte. Also included in the series were extreme sports events like monster trucks, motocross, and demolition.
"For each of our concerts, we have tickets that can be purchased, but we give away a limited amount of free tickets too. This was probably one of our most, if not the most, popular concert series. Demi Lovato sold out," said Hernandez. "There's something for everybody from classic rock to ethnic."
Free entertainment included tribute bands, Chinese acrobats, and a new attraction called Pencils to Pixels, which celebrated the art of animation and featured the woman who was the model for Tinkerbelle from Peter Pan. Another attraction that was free with purchase of a fair ticket was Beneath the Sea: an Underwater Adventure, which included a shark tank, stingray touch tank, a mermaid impersonator named Mermaid Melissa, and Sea Lion Splash. The Fairplex also is home to a horse race track, and horse races took place from September 6 to 22.
The fair's advertising budget of $2 million was spent on buys in television, radio, print, outdoor, and digital. In addition, the marketing team is also very active on social media; the Facebook page has more than 83,000 "likes," and the Twitter account has more than 4,000 Twitter followers.
"We run the whole gamut with Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. A lot of interaction. Our fair blog is called Hot Blog on a Stick.' In addition to providing people with updates, we do a lot of giveaways," said Hernandez.
At the 2014 fair, guests can look forward to a new exhibit called Hall of Heroes, which will focus on fictional superheroes like Superman and Batman. Each year, the fair has a flower and garden pavillion; while this year's theme was "Brazil," next year's theme will be "China."
"Year round we let our followers know what's happening for next year's fair and try to keep them active, and we publicize all the other events happening throughout the year," said Hernandez. "Right now we're working on Oktoberfest and Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare."