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California Mid-State Fair Overcomes Flood & Concert Delays
Davis Enterprises has best year ever at fair on the midway

9/11/2015

By Timothy Herrick

Photo courtesy of Mimi Ditchie

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The California Mid-State Fair, which ran July 22nd - August 2nd,  celebrated its 70th anniversary this year. Total  attendance grew 15 percent,  to 428,807, with concession revenue reaching $1,368,762 (last year that figure was: $1,121,556 22).

"We achieved what we set out to do and that was to produce a great Fair," said Vivian Robertson, CEO of the California Mid-State Fair.

Devestating Flood
But only days before opening, the 2015 California Mid-State Fair almost did not happen. According to Tommy Davis, the midway provider, about two days before the fair began, a severe thunderstorm hit the area. "It was nonstop rain, four inches of rain," he said. "We had a tsunami, it almost devastated the fair. We had several talks with the fPhoto By Mimi Ditchieair manager, and they were considering canceling or delaying the fair, but we reassured her."

In the grand tradition of the show must go one, the forces were rallied with a comprehensive clean-up crew, which Davis said numbered more than a hundred. The monsoon resulted in an old fashioned California mud-slide. "The mud was a foot deep and it was everywhere. We had three bulldozers clearing out the midway, and we had to hire people to help us. We had to scrape the entire midway clean, people were out with shovels and wading boots. The storm almost devastated fair."   
He added, "We made the opening, the fair was clean."

"After overcoming extreme flooding with water and mud covering every inch of the facility, I feel truly blessed to end the Fair with such incredible numbers. It is a true testament to the commitment of the Board, staff, and the volunteers, who worked tirelessly trudging through the mud in the gallant cleanup efforts," said Robertson.

Best Midway Year 
But post flood, the weather was cooperative. Davis said, "We probably had our best year at the fair, we had a big year. 

Davis added that 75 percent of all wristband sales were online presales. "People like the idea, they like to ride all they want at the Mid-State Fair. We run wristbands every day." 

The midway by Davis Enterprises featured 35 rides, including a Crazy Mouse, Zero Gravity, Giant Wheel, Himalayan, and a new fun house, Jumanji. The company subcontracts with other midway providers, but mainly the California Carnival Company. Davis said he had the highest wristband sales this summer of any his 12 year tenure at the California Mid-State Fair. "We had a good run at this fair, they keep getting better. "Every year, we try to bring four to six different rides. We had our best year at the fair, up by 5 percent over last year."

More Rest Spots
According to Davis, the fair treats the midway provider as a collaborator when it comes to overall presentation. "They help us create an atmosphere, where people are visiting the fair, they stay all day. The fairgrounds are impeccable.  We get a lot of comments about how many people enjoy their time here, the more comfortable they are, the longer they stay and that why is you get a higher per cap spending, because instead of leaving right away, they get a hamburger or a soda. The longer they stay the more they will spend." 

Davis pointed out that organizers improved the fairgrounds, enabling an expanded midway which he used to improve fairgoer comfort. "We were able to put out 250 park benches and a lot of great big umbrellas, more than any we've had at any previous California Mid-State Fair. When the customers come out to the carnival, they are impressed with how pleasant the atmosphere is, they can sit down next to Kiddeland, watch their children have fun, relax. At a lot of fairs, people can't an empty spot to relax."

Big Draw
Davis praised the marketing of the fair. "They do a real good job of marketing, seeing more online ticket sales and their concert tickets every year."

Davis explained that the fair's marketing combines community outreach to civic groups and other interested organizations as well as with Albertson's Grocery Store, who he said was "a big supporter of the fair."

He added, "They do a real good job with their online presale tickets and wristbands. Before we even opened, we had half our gross sales."

As many California fairs cut back on their entertainment, Davis pointed out that the California Mid-State Fair "is spending on top talent, they get the top entertainment, and they give a good mixture, not just country and western, but rock and roll through all different age groups."

The location and the entertainment package presented by the California Mid-State Fair accounts for the robust attendance. Located in Paso Robles, in San Luis Obispo County, "the fair is really located in the middle of the state," Davis said.  "People come from hundreds of miles just to come to the fair. People drive from Fresno and Bakersfield. They draw a lot of people because of their entertainment. The carnival is a small part of it but they come for everything." 

No Refunds
The fair entertainment did have one controversial evening, when heavy metal legends Motley Crue - who were doing a double bill with Alice Cooper - had an airplane problem, delaying the start of show by three hours. "They had a police escort to the show, usually the shows let out at 10:30, but they didn't cancel the show.  We had one of our biggest nights ever at the fair, we turned a catastrophe  into a success, we were opened until one. People bought food, they drank beer, they rode rides. It worked out great." 

According to local news reports, "About 50 people had lodged complaints with the California Mid-State Fair over a delayed Motley Crue and Alice Cooper concert Saturday night." Ticket prices for this double-bill ranged from $45 to $150, and the controversy was around the issue of refunding tickets after the fair announced the show would start at 10:30, three hours after the original date. Although it was reported that a "few" people received refunds, Robertson was quoted as insisting "there's no refunds." 

But other than this near catastrophe, Davis said that the Alan Jackson concert was particularly memorable.  "Alan Jackson puts on a great concert," he said. "He flew in a video crew before the show, and they go around the city and shoot video of all the places to see and he showed that on the screen before the show. It got huge applause, and really tied it to the community, which is in the spirit of the fair."
This community boosterism has been a crucial, contributing factor in the growth of this fair. During his 12 years with the fair, Davis pointed out that the fair has evolved into a very family-friendly event. "They have strong ties to the community" he said.  "When we first started with the fair, there was a lot of out of control drinking and gangs of teenagers causing problems. We felt they were a detriment to the fair and there were several meetings with the fair and community leaders. Those issues don't exist today, you don't see any of those problems, they've controlled their alcohol and beer sales. There's no smoking signs. There's a lot of security, both staff, event security and from the Sheriff's department." 
The California Mid-State Fair has evolved into one of the Golden State's premium mid-summer fairs. "The overall success would not be possible without the tremendous support of the sponsors and the community," said Robertson.



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