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Ride & gate revenue up at the Tulsa State Fair
New, unique foods lead to increase in concession sales

11/18/2013

By Linda McNatt

Photo courtesy of Tulsa State Fair

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Food must have been one of the major topics of conversation at the 2013 Tulsa State Fair this year.

For the first time, the fair held a corndog eating contest. Preliminaries were held on September 26. Potential contestants had four minutes to see how many corn dogs they could devour. Those eating the corndogs had to eat everything but the stick, all of the batter, all of the sausage.

The finals were held on Oct. 26, and finalists had seven minutes to chomp and swallow the dogs. Contestants were disqualified if they  regurgitated.

And, if those feasting didn't have enough corn dogs, they could have always tried the cricket pizza, a new and unusual treat the fair offered this year.

Fair manager Amanda Blair said she didn't try the cricket pizza, but plenty of people did try it, at $9 a slice.

"It hPhoto By Tulsa State Fairad everything else a real pizza has - tomato sauce, cheese," said Blair. "But it was covered with toasted crickets, real crickets."  Other than the crickets, there was very little so unusual at the fair this year, she said.

"It was a very successful fair," she said. "We had no weather issues. It rained a little on the first Saturday, and we had rain very early on the second Saturday morning. Other than that, it was pleasant."

About 1,100,000 people were estimated to have attended this year, said Blair, who has worked with the fair for eight years, five years as manager. The 2013 attendance number is a 7.6 percent increase over 2012. Gate revenues increased 18 percent and midway ride sales rose by 20 percent.

Overall concession sales increased by about 17 percent, she said. There were dozens of new foods offered in addition to the cricket pizza, like a 1.5 pound banana split.

The admission price for adults was $8 for Monday through Thursday and $10 for Friday and Saturday. It cost $6 for children, senior citizens and veterans with proper identifications. The fair was held September 25 through Oct. 5.

The history of the Tulsa State Fair dates back to 1903, when it was first held at a baseball park. It was moved to today's 240-acre facility in 1926. The fairground includes a public campground used by visitors.

There was no fair held during the years of World War II, from 1941 through 1943. It resumed in 1944.

The fair is owned by the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, a public trust, said Blair.

It was advertised this year on television, radio, social media, billboards and in print. The Tulsa State Fair has a $250,000 advertising budget, according to the fair manager.

The entertainment started this year with Disney on Ice.  "Rockin' Ever After" was held Thursday, September 26, through Sunday, Sept. 29. Tickets were priced from $20 to $40.

The  advanced gate admission special was four tickets for $24. Advance ride coupons were sold in blocks of 20 tickets for $15. All of the concerts were free with the price of admission, said Blair. Mega ride tickets could be purchased early for $70, allowing those who purchased the tickets to ride everything on the midway for the length of the fair. That same ticket was $75 after September 15.
 
The concerts included Adley Stump on September 26, singing Weather the Storm.

Randy Montana with Josh Thompson sang Beer on the Table on September 27. The popular Sevendust was on stage on September 28 performing Decay. Lee Brice performed Hard to Love on September 29, and Casting Crowns did Who Am I? on September 30.

Those concerts were followed by Zendaya, Zerrod Nieman, Kansas, Bell Bio DeVoe, Chevelle and Smilin' Vic and the Soul Monkeys.
For the first time ever this year, a female performer won the fiddling contest. Emma Jane Pendleton, who was competing for the sixth time, is a college student studying mechanical engineering. She also plays in an orchestra and in a jazz band.

The agriculture exhibits were some of the largest displays in fair history, said Blair. There were over 18,000 livestock exhibits that included swine, cows, horses, pigs, goats and other smaller animals. The Junior Livestock Auction brought in $450,000 for the Future Farmers of America and the 4H students who participated in the shows.

Most of that money is used to help the students pay for their college tuition, said Blair.

Livestock was a real interest when the rodeo played on  Friday, October 4, following the Justin Moore concert, and on Saturday, October 5, following the Josh Abbott Band. Admission price for the rodeo was $30.

The modern day rodeo evolved from the working cowboy and his duties on the range. After months of back-breaking labor moving cattle across the country, cowboys celebrated the end of their journey by roping more cattle and riding wild broncos for fun and friendly competition. It was from those informal, friendly competitions that, on July 4, 1869, two groups of cowboys met to settle an argument over who was best at performing everyday ranch duties.

In 1936, the professional rodeo cowboy was born, and the cowboys' Turtles Association was established. In 1945, it was renamed the Rodeo Cowboys Association and in 1975, it became the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Currently, there are approximately 7,000 cowboys who are members of the PRCA, the group that put on the Tulsa fair performance.

Rodeo has evolved from its rough origins into a high-stakes sport. It's no longer an informal competition, but a performance with a tremendous audience. Rodeo is more than a job and a profession for most of these competitors, it's a way of life.

The Murphy family's Spectacular Attractions worked for the first time with Frank Zaitshik's Wade Shows to produce the midway in Tulsa. The move worked well for Wade Shows, coming from the nearby Oklahoma State Fair on Oklahoma City to Tulsa.   Several new attractions were added and according to press reports, there were many favorable comments from guests about the new midway.

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