The value of fairs received documented economic validation at the 2015 Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs (IAAF) Convention. A year-long study - "Economic Impact of Illinois Agricultural Fairs" - conducted by the University of Illinois, was presented at the fair, which showed $170 million was spent at the fairs of Illinois.
According to William H. Fugate, Secretary/Treasurer, of the IAAF, the purpose of this highly anticipated report was to follow the lead of other associations by providing to stake holders data measuring the economic activity generated by the state's fairs. "Studies have been done in several states by fair associations, which they then use when taking their message to the state legislature," said Fugate. "We felt there was need to show the positive impact fairs have had on the economy, and convey to that to the state of Illinois."
The report also broke down the regional benefits for the local events. "County fairs in the Northern Zone generated an estimated economic impact of $44 million. an economic impact of $17 million in the Central Zone, and an economic impact of $12 million in the Southern Zone," the report said.
In addition, the IAAF reported: "Beyond the economic impact, the study revealed that county fairs provide many benefits to the community that are not related to economic gains, family friendly entertainment, education about agriculture, opportunities for local organizations to get involved, traditional community events, fundraising for local groups and unique entertainment opportunities."
Sometime before May the association plans to hold a major press conference and representatives will be meeting with state legislators. "We want to be working with them as they begin working on the budget to bring more attention to local fairs," he said.
According to Fugate, in recent years, due to budget constraints, the Illinois state government cut fair funding by a third. The hope is that as the economy has improved, and with the new report substantiating the economic benefit of fairs, increased governmental support could be forthcoming.
"Fairs are mostly at the hands of the weather," said Fugate. "But fairs had a very good year in 2014. Most experienced excellent attendance and participation due to a strong farm economy, a lot of local interest, and some nice weather for outdoor activities."
One sign that enthusiasm for the fair industry is high in the Prairie State is that the annual convention of the IAAF - held January 16-18 - attracted 4,000, "Our highest attendance in eight years," said Fugate.
The association represents 103 fairs plus the two State fairs, the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair. The convention featured 80 booths/vendors plus 40 hospitality rooms, an entertainment showcase and 11 entertainment acts. Robert Flider, Director of Agriculture, presented the "Friend of Illinois County Fairs" Awards to Jerry Jacobs of the Carroll Count Fair, Kathy and Terry Swyear of Swyear Amusements and Robert "Bob" Scherer of the Boone Co. Fair. The association's annual awards were sponsored by the North American Midway Entertainment Corporation.
New officers of the IAAF inaugurated at the convention included President, Ron Meyer of the Will-County Fair, Vice President, Bill Redshaw of the Schyuler County Fair and the new Secretary/Treasurer, Marla Behrends. Fugate is retiring after 15 years of serving that role for the association. Fugate has also served as IAAF President for two years, Secretary/Manager of the Fairbury County Fair for 33 years, Chair of the Federation of State and Provincial Fair Associations for two years, and Director of the International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE) for two years.
"I am wishing that all fairs will have continuing success offering opportunities to our Illinois youth and to continue and perhaps increase the social and economic benefits which county fairs offer their local communities," said Fugate.
To download the full Economic Impact on Illinois Fairs report, click here
IAFE's TUCKER ADDRESSES COLORADO FAIRS
Colorado County Fairs received significant industry exposure at the annual convention of the Colorado Association of Fairs and Shows (CAFS) held November 7-8 and attended by 210 fair professionals. Jim Tucker, President/CEO of the International Association of Fair & Expositions, gave the keynote address - "Why Fairs are Crucial to our Country's Future," and as a means to expand the county-fair reach of this national organization, a free IAFE membership was raffled off (Cheyenne County won).
" Jim's talk was heart-warming, insightful and encouraging for fairs of all sizes and with all challenges," said Angie Cue, CFE, Executive Secretary, CAFS. " CAFS was excited to have IAFE offer this opportunity and expose a county to the benefits of IAFE membership."
The CAFS represents 53 fairs, 55 associate members and seven individual members. The annual convention included entertainment showcases and a trade show. "Our trade show has grown over the last few years and the exhibitors participate in our convention sessions and are part of our Colorado fair family," said Cue. "We do have both a trade show and entertainment showcases. We had some outstanding showcase acts this year and would say that they are the best we have seen for many years."
With the president of the national fair association making the keynote address and a revitalized program of entertainment showcases and vendor exhibitions, the atmosphere at the convention was noticeably upbeat and dynamic.
"Our organization was struggling," said Wayne Clark, the new Board President of the CAFS, and also president of CEW Enterprises. "We have a good board and a lot of energy. We turned it around and now we are strong and growing."
Clark emphasized that the break-out sessions, workshops and seminars at the convention - whose theme was "Something to Crow About" - were "some of the best we had in years, with a lot of participation," he said. The hottest topic was sponsorship. "Sponsorship is more complicated, but there were lot of great ideas presented on "obtaining and retaining sponsors. Sponsorship is now a year-round business, that's the reality," he added. Other topics included: Event Insurance; County Fair Governance and Social Media.
The organization also launched a new program - Book to Relieve Your Budget - that combines elements of coalition buying and incentivizing CAFS member contracting. Under the program, CAFS members contribute to an overall fund, that is matched by the CAFS, which helps secure contracts between member fairs and associate member vendors. Additional benefits and prizes were available for qualified fairs who initiated a contract with a CAFS associate member at the 2014 convention for 2015 fair season. "There were 18 contracts and 27 proposals," said Clark. "We are getting the fairs to deal more with associates to make the association stronger. The program was well received and we expect to grow."
In addition to Clark taking the president's chair, other officers included: Toni McPherson - Vice President - Sand & Sage Roundup; Linda Meisner - Secretary - Logan County Fair; Jim Abendschan - Jefferson County Fair; Betsy Denney - Fremont Fairs and Shows Association. New board members included Jeremiah Bogenhagen - Cheyenne County Fair; Janet Konkel - Weld County Fair; Gary Parr - Parr Sound & Lighting; Chris Wiseman - Colorado State Fair.
Current board members include; John Ellis - National Western Stock Show; Don Hayes - Routt County Fair; Les Linman - Delta County Fairgrounds; Gene Meisner - Logan County Fair; Cody Smith - Garfield County Fair; and Randy Snate - Teller County Association of Fairs and Shows.
Awards given out the annual CAFS convention included: Fair Manager of the Year Award - Jonna Negas-Perberton, Douglas County Fair; Fair Person of the Year Award - Diane Pool, Sand & Sage Roundup; and the Hall of Fame Award - Alvie Roth, Weld County Fair.
"Fairs are on the upswing in Colorado," said Clark. "They will continue to be on an upswing, as long as agriculture stays strong and we have good weather."
He added, "but you have change and at the convention we give fair managers a lot of new and good idea."
"2014 was a good year for fairs," Cue agreed. "As an association, we look forward to continued engagement with our member fairs and associates within our industry. We have grown our membership and convention participation so we are excited to keep the momentum going with our 2015 convention theme "Go Hog Wild" and create an atmosphere in which more members will want to join."