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Pima County Fair Wrap-up
RCS introduces Fun Pass System in AZ

6/3/2007

By MCW Staff

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Tuscon - The 97th Pima County Fair, held April 19 - 29 was up 3.2 % from last year making it the best attended fair for the past ten years. "Gates, parking, concessions and alcohol (revenues) were at an all-time high", said Launa Rabago, Marketing Director for the event.

Admission for the fair was $7 for adults, $2 for children ages 6 - 10 and free 5 and under. Parking fees were $5. Several discounts were offered throughout the event to drive traffic.

The fair did face some adverse weather conditions such as high winds on four peak days, a freak hail storm and frigid temperatures (for Tuscon) in the low 60s on some nights. Gas pricing, a concern for many events this year, did not seem to affect attendance this year though some acts and entertainers did raise their asking prices and listed "gas prices" as the primary reason for the increase.

Entertainment could be found in generous supply at the fair with both numerous grounds acts and entertainment headliners on the Budweiser Main Stage. Free with paid admission, guests could see Tesla, Darryl Worley, Ramon Ayala and a Super Oldies Concert including GQ!, Rose Royce and Sly Slick.

Some of the free attractions at the fair included Tammy Barton's Hypnotist Show, the Marcan White Tigers, Mopapa African Acrobats, Nancy Kobert's Amazing World of Birds and the Sea Lion Splash Show. There was also a unique Fish School which provided fishing lessons and demonstrations for guests.

Marketing and promotions play a central part in the fair's efforts to keep the crowds coming. Rabago said the internet, specifically My Space, was used this year in an effort to reach younger potential customers. The strategy generated thousands of hits in the first few teens with a campaign specifically marketed to teens.

Another way the fair marketed itself to different groups was through the use of varied commercials to reach the Hispanic, senior and youth markets. While the information was the same as the general market ads, each targeted commercial featured different language, voices and music beds to appeal to the targeted group and garner their attention.

Traditional promotions also abounded. Ride tickets were sold in advance for $10 for 10 rides, good Monday through Friday only. April 20th was military appreciation day, April 23rd featured $2 parking and admission, April 24th was $1 ride night and April 25th was the two for one ride and admission program through Wendy's Restaurants.

Ray Cammack Shows provided the midway for the fair, providing about 40 rides for the midway, said Marketing Director Tony Fiori. RCS introduced 9 new rides to the fair, including several new kiddie ride purchases. Revenue was down 2% from a record year in 2006. Bad weather on Saturday and a couple of weekdays prevented another record year said Fiori.

The big new innovation for the midway was the first use in Arizona of the "Fun Pass" system. Fiori said the Fun Pass debuted in Houston and RCS was "very pleased with the results." The Fun Pass is a swipe card that works similar to a debit card or pre-paid phone card. When the customer purchases a Fun pass at the carnival ticket booth, a unique account is instantly set up with the amount of their purchase. The card is then presented to the ride operator who scans the card and the appropriate number of credits are deducted from the account. Cards can be reloaded at the ticket booths.

The Fun Pass cards can be replaced if lost, provided the customer retains their receipt. Also, RCS management can collect data from each swipe card on a real time basis. This data can be used to develop promotions, adjust ticket pricing for a ride and determine traffic flow. "Fun Pass" was developed by RCS's tech Bill Lowery. The system is currently used for all rides. Games take Fun Pass and cash but eventually the system will be used for rides, games and food stands.

Rabago said there weren't any problems with the Fun Pass system with the exception of having to strategically place the live TV cameras so they would not interfere with the tech building and their satellite equipment.

Planning is already underway for the 2008 fair scheduled April 17 - 27, 2008. The fair hopes to implement online carnival tickets sales for the 2008 fair as well as continue the marketing initiatives begun during the 2007 fair

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