In most cities, fairs and festivals are competitors. K-Days in Edmonton, Alberta, is both fair and festival rolled into one event.
K-Days started as the Edmonton Exposition, an agriculture fair and exposition in 1879, but as the 20th century progressed, this fair gradually became more festival. In fact, in 1964 the name was changed to Klondike Days and after a brief flirtation with a new branding in the 21st century as Capital Ex, by 2012 the name was changed, by a public vote, to K-Days.
This north country extravaganza, held July 17-26 on the 160-acre Northlands fairgrounds, which also includes the 200,000-sq.-ft. Edmonton Expo Center, not only has extraordinary community support - enough so that their name had to be decided by plebiscite, but has the best of the two often dichotomous outdoor event worlds. K-Days is a fair and a festival whose vast number of attractions in 2015 was bolstered by an intensive social media, real-time marketing program.
"We are an all-in-one," said Michael Presniak, Spokesperson, K-Days. "We like to celebrate the summer, and this is really 10-days of free concert festival. We have very unique shopping in one of our halls, and our midway is like any large fair. We have several events that really draw people. We've become more of a festival, but we still refer to it is a fair. People come multiple days and instead of staying just four hours, they stay the whole day, which is really more of a festival."
These events within the event started with a parade that also honored Edmonton's first responders, followed by 50 live shows on the North Stage, and 11 headliners are the South Stage, and eight indoor halls filled with attractions. K-Days attracted 785,290 fairgoers, an increase of about 44,000 over 2014, said Presniak. A rainy opening day hit the fair hard - although 171,000 viewed the parade on television - K-Days attracted 785,290 fairgoers, an increase of about 44,000 over 2014, said Presniak.
He explained, "In the summer months, we like to make the most of summer. People here love K-Days. We want to celebrate the summer because our winters are so long and cold."
"The K-Days developed a very successful formula, engaging the community," said Scooter Korek, Vice President of Client Services, North American Midway Entertainment (NAME), who provides the K-Day midway. "The support for this fair from the Edmonton community is amazing, they really bring the people out. You rarely see this kind of local support anymore."
The robust attendance was even more amazing because Edmonton's economy is in a downswing. Alberta is the major industry in the province and the decline in fuel prices has had a negative impact on disposable income. K-Days marketing combined the personal connection of the fair/festival with an awareness of the economic difficulties families are enduring. The 2015 K-Days marketed itself as an 'Your Affordable Stay-cation,' and had a tagline, K-Days is ‘All Yours'. "We have something for everyone," said Presniak. "K-Days is your summer entertainment destination, that is the gist of our marketing."
The most effective marketing this year came with a new, innovatively aggressive approach to Twitter. According to Presniak, a marketing team of five to 10 would go throughout the fair, each person releasing about 15 tweets a day. This was in addition to scheduled tweets, announcing events about to start.
The fair also used Facebook and Instagram, urging fairgoers to send "us your picture and tagging yourself," said Presniak, which of course exposed the fair to friends and followers of their fairgoers, reaching secondary markets. But compared to Twitter, other social media platforms were "a little slower, Twitter is more like a revolving door, it's very fast and we tried to take advantage of that."
He added, "we are able to engage more people with Twitter, and keep engaging them, making announcements and building conversations. It was very effective for giving out parking or other timely and specific information as well as promotions."
Twitter of course is not new for outdoor event marketing, but by multiplying the tweets by making twitter a team effort, the social media platform because a real-time, rapid information and marketing delivery tool. "We had a lot more hands on deck," said Presniak. "With multiple people you can really use Twitter to its full potential. More people can do what one person can't do."
The team tweets ran from noon to 11, and Presniak was often part of the team. "As a marketing person, I have to say it was really fun."
Presniak pointed out that K-Days trended on social media four days in a row with #KDAYS taking the first spot in Edmonton. In addition, the K-Days parade (#KDAYSParade) trended to fifth in Canada on July 17th. K-Days also had 44,000 stories created on Facebook and 10 million impressions of "K-Days related content" on Facebook and Twitter combined.
In addition, K-Days expanded its online marketing, expanding its use of animated web ads, both pop-up and banners, improving its targeting of specific audiences and geographical regions. "If you try to target everybody, it costs more and doesn't really work. So we effectively targeted different groups, like teenagers or parents," he said. Most of the targeting was via google, he said. More accurate targeting and the more attention-grabbing animated ads resulted in "an 8- percent increase in our click-through rates."
The NAME midway also has pumped up its social media marketing, which supplemented the K-Days efforts. "Our social media has become very strong, and it is important to gauge that demographic, which accounts for 55 percent of our heavy usage riders. The carnival companies who ignore social marketing, are going to lose the battle. We are embracing the battle and we are winning those customers."
The NAME Midway at K-Days featured 49 rides, with a new ride, Monster Truck, "a kiddie ride. We are paying special attention to our family ride presentation, and this ride has been a good addition," said Korek.
Presniak pointed out that while some rainy days hampered some K-Days, the something for everyone design of the event and the utilization of the entire Northlands complex meant for an array of indoor activities. The Expo Center featured a series of unique paid and unpaid interactive events and exhibits," said Presniak. These new exhibits included a 90-ft. long Zip Line, a 23-ft. high, 20-ft. x 40-ft. Ropes Course, a Ski Simulator, an Acrobatic Show and Interactive Experience, where guests could jump on trampolines and dive off platforms onto an air bag, and the Stormin' Norman Paint/Nerf Ball game, which was an inflatable 50 ft. x 100 ft. paint/Nerf ball course. A returning featured attraction, was presented by CTV - President's Choice SuperDogs, which showcased their new show, "Hollywoof," where the canine performers reenact classic movie scenes. According to Presniak, these indoor events are always "new and fresh," said Presniak. "We want the entertainment inside to be very engaging, and more interactive."
This fair and festival also has a significant merchandise component, with the "The Grand Shopping Experience" , encompassing 350 exhibits and 213 vendors spread out across 122,000 square feet. "We have a range of vendors you can't find anywhere else," said Presniak. "The Grand Shopping Experience you can't really find anywhere else, and it's an example of what I mean that we have something for everybody."
The fair featured 90 independent midway food vendors, and anecdotally, Presniak said that vendors told him they were having one of their best years in terms of sales. "The classic food, like elephant ears and corn dogs sell the best, but this is an opportunity to bring some of new food items, which people try for curiosity." The 2015 K-Days featured 24 new additions to the fair cuisine roster. The fair bestows new Fair Food prizes, with this year's winners being: 1st place - Glazed Donut Grilled Cheese by Tin Lizzy; 2nd place -Foot Long Pizza Dog by Next Gen Concessions; and 3rd Place: Root Beer Pop by Family Squeezed and Freezed. "It's one time a year food," said Presniak. "You can't find this food anywhere else."
"Edmontonians love fair food and we offer unique food items you can't find anywhere else," said Tim Reid, President & CEO, Northlands. "K-Days comes once a year and this is your opportunity to indulge in something deep-fried and outrageous. Whether it's on the midway or inside the Edmonton EXPO Centre, there is something delicious waiting for every fairgoer at this year's event."
K-Day's mix of eclectic attractions, innovative and personalized marketing and an enthusiastic community paid off in 2015. Reid: "We consider K-Days 2015 a huge success for Northlands and for the Capital Region. Each guest that joined us on site truly made it their own unique experience."