Cooperative weather, community partnerships and rodeo recognition added up to a successful Greeley Stampede - The World's Largest 4th of July Rodeo and Western Celebration!" - held June 26-July 6 in Greeley, Colo. Total attendance was 940,000, according to Anthea Dreisbach, General Manager, with revenue and other statistics all securely on the incline.
"We had an amazing rodeo, a lot of growth and record breaking days," said Dreisbach. " It was a great year all-around; concerts were up, rodeos, demo derby, bull fighting and bull riding and the carnival all saw increases."
The 2014 Greeley Stampede was the second year at the helm for Dreisbach, previously having held a CEO position at the New Mexico State Fair & Rodeo. Her basic strategy for her sophomore effort was to "build on what was already here."
Much of that strategy required a deeper knowledge of exactly who the Greeley Stampede attendees are. "We're targeting our market a lot better," she said. "This is a community event and we are learning how to best serve the community, bringing in the best possible entertainment. We better understand who we are marketing to, our community and we get a lot of community support."
This cultivating your own backyard methodology seemed to work in 2014. According to Andy Segal, Media and Communications Manager, preliminary figures indicate that revenues were "up this year by more than 30 percent" compared to 2013. He said, "In 2012 we had good year, we had about a 9 percent increase in 2013 from 2012."
The Greeley Stampede Community consists mainly of the cowboy, rodeo and western heritage enthusiast. Perhaps no clearer indicator of this theme is the tagline of the event - "Get Western."
"Our mission is to celebrate our Western heritage," said Dreisbach.
This year, admission to the fair included admission to the Centennial Village Museum, directly adjacent to the fairgrounds. According to Dreisbach, the new agreement with the Centennial Village Museum was made through the City of Greeley, with the intent of bolstering and promoting the history and culture of the western United States. The Centennial Village is an 8-acre Living History museum that "allows visitors to experience Northeastern Colorado as it was over 100 years ago," says its website and includes historic structures, heirloom animals, and lush historic gardens.
The Centennial Village became uniquely part of the Greeley Stampede - the fair's main attraction is the Rodeo, a competitive, professional sport resonating with the appreciation and nostalgia for the pioneer past of the United Sates. The living history experience - which includes attractions such as Tomahawk throwing, a traditional sheriff/outlaw "show down" and a tree trunk carver - provided an educational component that only enhances the rodeo and cultural celebration inherent to the mission of the Greeley Stampede.
"We were able to add more value to our event with the Centennial Village this year," said Dreisbach.
Hall of Famer
In the weeks preceding the Greeley Stampede, significant national recognition provided added promotion when it was announced that the Greeley Stampede Rodeo Committee had been voted into the Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame.
The Greeley Stampede is one of the last of the largest outdoor rodeos on the PRCA circuit - and is considered the biggest Fourth of July Rodeo - a day known as Cowboy Christmas - in the country. The official induction ceremony took place August 9 at the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame Museum in Colorado Springs. The Greeley Stampede was one of only four committees (Clovis Rodeo, Snake River Stampede, and Rowell Ranch Pro Rodeo) inducted this year. "The 2014 Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame Committee Induction is an unparalleled tribute to all Stampede volunteers throughout the years," said James Herman, Greeley Stampede Rodeo Chairman. "It is an achievement which is not dominated by the accomplishments of one committee but shared by the successes of every volunteer and staff member since 1922."
"Rodeo is definitely growing in popularity," said Dreisbach. "You see more of it on television than you used to. People are getting back to their roots and Rodeo is a family sport. There is a sense of comradery among the riders that you don't see in other activities and the fans really appreciate that."
She added, "we are one of the top 25 rodeos in the country, and the summer is the busiest time of the year. I am seeing more and more people coming out. The fact that we as an organization were inducted into the hall brought us a lot of community pride. We were able to promote that fact as well."
The Greeley Stampede is non-profit organization, with a $1.5 million budget and according to Segal, the marketing budget was $350,000, comparable to the 2013 marketing expenditure. The mix is surprisingly traditional for this year "We cover all media sources but radio is our largest buy, TV is second, print is third, web ads/social media is fourth," Segal said, adding that billboards accounted for the smallest line item budget.
However, next year, the marketing purchases will likely undergo a drastic re-appropriation. "This year my goal was to accumulate data through a survey, to have a better idea what media was being utilized by our customers and even those that don't attend the event," Segal said. "The survey will be compiled this fall which will impact the 2015 Marketing plan. However, during the 2014 plan I created defined advertising periods based on promotions, ticket prices and we utilized the media that could deliver the best bang for my buck. Social and web advertising are the easiest and most accurately tracked. I mention our website and social media on all our marketing and advertising."
He added, "it is no surprise that newspaper readership and AM radio are on the decline, but a majority of our core customer base still reads newspapers and listens to AM radio. The percentage of my budget dedicated to newspaper print ads has declined while I've increased my digital budget. We had over a 20 percent increase in [Facebook] likes during the 2014 event, bringing our likes to almost 15,400."
The most popular promotions, according to Segal, were First Responders Day, who received free park admission, and a seat at the rodeo; Kids and Community Day - 2 for 1 admission, rodeo tickets and carnival wristbands - Wild West Wednesday - those in cowboy garb received a discounted admission; Military Day, where military members and veterans received park admission, and a seat at the rodeo. A new midway promotion was a 4 day pass (Monday - Thursday only) for $44 - Daily wristbands normally go for $30 per day.
The Midway provider at the Greeley Stampede was Carnival Americana, which included a new ride, The Vertigo. According to Segal, "Midway revenue was up from the previous year by almost 116 percent,".
The concert series at the fair included: Jake Owen, Three Days Grace, Billy Currington, Martina McBride, and Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy. "Our talent buyers took their time to get great acts," said Dreisbach. "I think it is still a seller's market this year, there are a lot of events to play. But the Greeley Stampede has become more established, we have to find talent in keeping with our mission."
The Greeley Stampede features 40 food vendors and tends to shy away from the more flamboyantly inventive fair cuisine items. "We stick mostly the traditional fare," said Dreisbach. "We try to keep a variety and avoid repeats of vendors serving the same food." German Sausage and beef brisket sandwiches remained the perennial favorites, she added.
By reinforcing the western themes and traditions that were its reason for being when it was first held in 1922, the Greeley Stampede held a successful event this summer. "2014 did exceed expectations," said Segal. "Almost every event was 10 to 20 percent above last year. Vendors renewed with glowing reviews and visitor comments were how great the park looked and excited about all the different events."
And while some of those increases can also be signs of an improving economy in Colorado, the appeal of traditional values embodied in a classic rodeo and fair may be stronger than ever. "The economy is recovering and turning back up," said Dreisbach. "But people want to spend their time with their families, they are investing in that time, and the Stampede is affordable and family friendly."