The Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition may have hit official retirement age in 2016, but this early Spring Florida event has no intention of calling it quits.
This Florida Spring tradition - which celebrated its 65th anniversary this year -may have experienced a slight dip in attendance compared to 2015, but as the 2016 tagline promised -Celebrating 65 Years of Smiles - the 2016 fair was something to smile about.
According to Claudia Hernandez, Director of Marketing & Entertainment, the fair attracted more than 612,000 - a healthy turnout but a 6 percent dip compared to 2015. "We had a few days of light rain, one day of hard rain and six days where the days were very cloudy," said Hernandez.
The fair extended the run of the fair to 21 d
ays from the previous 18 days, but the fair actually went over a span of 25 days - essentially the fair added an extra weekend but closed on the Monday and Tuesday," said Hernandez.
The fairgrounds is adjacent to Florida International University, and the fair and college are locked in a increasingly bitter property dispute. During one of the weekends, the school held an event that closed off most of the major roads to the fair. "We believe a lot of people saw the traffic jam and they did a u turn when they saw the backed up cars because the school closed roads," she said. "We hope this situation can be resolved soon."
But in spite of these obstacles, there was a day of 51,000 attendees, while not a record, it "was one of the best days in our history," she said.
This calendar extension will likely be the format that will be followed in the future. Regardless of the drop in attendance - Hernandez does not feel the additional weekend added to the 2016 attendance dip - the new schedule resulted from recommendations made by sponsors and other vendors. "We get more people on the weekends, so we extended the far an extra weekend and closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The decision was made on feedback from our business partners. The extra weekend gives you a cushion, in case of bad weather. Also, our vendors and the fair were able to give people time off after working the weekends, and we were able to take of care operational needs and maintenance."
According to Hernandez, 65th anniversary celebrations included an Opening Day Parade, Fireworks on Opening Day, a Laser Show all 21 days, and marching bands every weekday. In addition, "We created a new logo to celebrate our 65th Anniversary and incorporated that in most of our materials," she said. "We incorporated the 65th Anniversary in different radio and social media contests and created a Digital Scrapbook for everyone to enjoy and learn about our history."
"People are spending at the fair, and that is a good indicator that the economy is getting better, little by little," said Hernandez. "The lower gasoline prices have helped."
The fair's brand and familiar tagline - "Creating Memories" - begins the fair marketing program, and then as of the opening day of the fair, the fair switches from branding reminders to messaging more focused on the actual event. "We have been using the same strategy for two years," said Hernandez. "We start with our Branding Campaign in early December and then change to our Promotional Campaign in mid February. The 'Creating Memories' was substituted now for 'Celebrating 65 Years of Smiles' in honor of our 65th Anniversary."
The Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition used social media differently in 2016 by holding two different "Flash Sales" - one in January, for single admissions with unlimited rides and another in March for four steeply discounted admission tickets. The discounts were available for any day of the fair, and each Flash Sale lasted for 36 hours. "It generated excitement," she said. "We wanted to do one early in the year, January. I think it was a good time frame."
The fair will be tweaking this social media sales - a high discount for a limited amount of time - and while Hernandez was still assessing the sales figures and what are the most effective Flash Sale packages, "Flash Sales are here to stay".
While the fair's media budget and allocations remained consistent with last year's budget, "We are placing more and more emphasis on buying promoted posts on social media to advertise our online promotions, our concerts, etc.," said.
How did the fair expand its social media marketing in 2016? "We had more activity on Snapchat than in the previous year when we started using this social media platform," said Hernandez. " We made sure to use and promote our hashtags: #MiamiYouthFair #BeThereTheFair #65YearsofSmiles and we included this with all of our social media posts. We had a tagboard during the 21 days of the Youth Fair with all the different events happening at the Youth Fair as well as the concerts. People would love to see their posts being featured on the big screen,"
While promotions and personalizing the fair experience have been integral to the fair's social media campaign, a higher level of engagement with the individual fairgoer. "We are relying more and more on social media to communicate answers to the most frequently asked questions from our guests," said Hernandez. " We make sure to answer every single question and to 'like' most of the comments so there is that personal touch which is still very important."
Rides & Food
The Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition's midway -provided by North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) featured about 100 rides, said Hernandez, with the most significant change being an expanded children's area. "We had two new rides this year, one for the little kids and another ride for the older kids,." She said.
The fair featured 173 food vendors. "People spent more than last year, the feedback from the vendors we got was very positive," she said.
The food vendors also attracted media attention. "The media loves food stories, and we get publicity about the food every year," she said.
She added. we had many new food items. Funnel Bacon on a stick, Mexican Corn, Bacon Wrapped Chicken on a Stick, Meatball on a Stick, Fire and Ice Cream Sundae," she said, adding that the best selling items remain the more traditional fair cuisine items. "Our most popular foods are the roasted corn, elephant ears & corn dogs."
According to Hernandez, the fair featured headline concerts - five different shows, free with admission - and include: Christian (MercyMe), Country (Love & Theft and Jessie James Decker, Disco (Village People and Tavares, and two Latin/Hispanic concerts (Oscar D Leon. Hansel and Sonora Carruseles); and a well-received show Celebrating Celia for Celia Cruz, the Cuban-jazz songstress superstar, which had wide appeal among the large Cuban population of the area. Performers included Willy Chrino. Aymee Nuviola, Jeimy Osorio, and the Celia Cruz All Stars."
"We had something for everyone, with four different genres," she said.
The fair had to increase the entertainment budget because the "prices have gotten very high. It very expensive. Country music is really getting extremely expensive and the disco night is getting more difficult to book. We may be looking at what we will be doing differently last year."
In spite of the attendance dip, this Florida tradition exceeded expectations and lived up to its marketing promise, Celebrating 65 Years of Smiles said Hernandez. "We are grateful to have welcomed more than 612,000 guests to see the joy of the youngsters when playing one of the games, when going on the rides, when taking their parents and grandparents to see their school project being displayed in Arnold Hall along with other 57,000 student projects," she said, adding that best part was indeed to "see the smiles of our guests as they walked around the fairgrounds and enjoyed the food, the rides, the World of Agriculture, the Competitive Exhibits and more. We are blessed because we have the best job in the world."