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Central Floria Fair stands out in competitive marketplace

4/18/2014

By Linda McNatt

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What do you do when you're running a fair and you have so much competition staring you in the face that you could get dizzy from the sparkle and fireworks of the other events?

You do the very best you can and always hope for the best.

That's the philosophy of Will Price, marketing manager for two years and operations manager for seven years of the Central Florida Fair, in central Orlando, Florida.

This time of year, from February 27 through March 9, the Florida Strawberry Festival is the biggest competition for this regional fair, which has been going on since 1910. But the annual strawberry festival - by far - isn't the Central Fair's only competition.

There is also Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Fun Spot U.S.A. and Natural Wonders, said Price.

"And we never wish for great weather for our fair," he said. "We wish for good weather. If it's great weather - they'll all go to the beach!"

Fair organizers didn't have to worry about that this year. The combination of rides, entertainment, food and fun at the fair brought in an estimated 175,000 fair attendees. That number is slightly down from several years ago, before all of the competition moved in, said Price. And fair officials have tried to make some changes to correct the situation, but the progress has been slow, he said.

The date of the fair was changed eight years ago from February to April. It was later changed back again to the end of February and the first of March, and attendance has been gradually building back up, he said.

This year, the fair was kicked off with a ribbon cutting on Thursday, February 27 by the board of directors of the Central Florida Fair Association. Gate admission for the night was $1 with the donation of one can of food to Second Harvest Food Bank. Just short of four tons of food was collected, Price said.

"We were told we'd collected about 1,200 meals," Price said. "Many parts of this community are still feeling the effects of the recession. We feel like we really helped with this effort."

The major entertainment for the fair was Cold and Saliva.

Cold is an American post-grunge band, formed in 1996 in Jacksonville, Florida. With two gold albums, Cold has sold around two million records in the United States alone. On November 17, 2006, it was announced on MySpace that, after a period of uncertainty since February, the group had decided to disband. In July 2008, it was announced that the original line-up would reunite for a tour in early 2009. This situation became permanent, and the band released their fifth studio album, Superfiction on July 19, 2011.

Saliva is an American rock band formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in September 1996 and currently under Rum Bum Records. Saliva released their self-titled debut album on August 26, 1997, under Rocking Chair Records.

They were signed to Island records and went on to release their second studio album, Every Six Seconds. Saliva later released their third studio album titled Back into Your System on November 12, 2002. The album reached number 19 on the Billboard 200. Back into Your System launched one of Saliva's most successful songs, "Always," reaching No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Modern Rock Chart. Three years after Survival of the Sickest, Saliva released Blood Stained Love Story on Jan 23, 2007, repeating Back into Your System's chart performance at No. 19 on the Billboard 200. Saliva's first single, "Ladies and Gentlemen," peaked at No. 2 on the mainstream rock chart.

The seventh annual Cattleman's Ranch Rodeo and the fifth annual Youth Ranch Rodeo were held at the fair this year along with the Lego Family Block Party competition and a chicken wing eating contest sponsored by Kerr's Wing house.

Television reality star and Professional Mounted Shooting Competitor Denny Chapman, of History's 'Top Shot,' provided Wild West Entertainment and Mounted Shooting exhibitions March 5 and 6, and hosted an exciting Mounted Shooting competition on March 7, which was free with fair admission.

Regular gate admission to the fair was $10 for adults and $6 for children. Children under five were admitted free. There was a 36 percent entry fee discount available from Walgreen's Pharmacy until February 28.

In addition to all of the agricultural exhibits, there was plenty of additional entertainment. The Sea Lion Splash Show was a hit ewrurning from previous years as was the Hambone Express Racing Pigs Show. New to the Central Florida Fair were the No Joes Circus and the Eudora Farms Petting Zoo.

The Central Florida Fair was designed to celebrate the agricultural industry in Orlando and the surrounding counties of Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Brevard, and Volusia counties, known collectively as "Central Florida." It is the largest not-for-profit fair in Central Florida and among the top five largest fairs in the state. The Fair is centrally located just minutes from downtown Orlando on 87 acres with free parking and a Lynx Bus stop at the main entrance.

Each year, the fair provides free tickets for up to 30,000 school students in Orange and Seminole counties. The fair also carries on its longstanding tradition of showcasing livestock, creative arts, fine arts, food arts and sciences, horticulture, FFA and 4H exhibits.

On the midway, the Wade Shows brought about 75 rides for children and adults.. Wade Shows has been with the Central Florida Fair since 1997, said Price, and the show has been a "good partner" to the fair.

The Central Florida Fair invests about $125,000 in its advertising budget, using TV, radio, outdoor and print advertising, according to Price. "The ring leader is print," he said.

Throughout the rest of the year, the Central Florida Fair continues to support community and educational projects. Annual scholarships are presented to high school seniors and fair endowments support college students at the University of Florida, Valencia and Seminole Community Colleges.

To date, the Central Florida Fair has awarded over $1 million in financial aid. Additionally, the Central Florida Fairgrounds is busy at work during non-fair time as the Exposition Park is host to over 2 million visitors. The 87 acres of fairground hosts countless events including trade shows, RV rallies, concerts, ethnic festivals, antique shows, dog shows and much more.

No taxpayer support is received from city or county governments to support the fair and only $4,400 annually is designated from the State of Florida towards the premiums paid to fair exhibitors. Instead, the fair is sustained by fair ticket sales, off-season rental income, and partnerships with local businesses to provide the community with its annual celebration of the best of Central Florida.

For him, Price said, being fair spokesman is always fun.

"This is the best job in the world," he said. "It's always one big party."


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