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By Mary Weber

Photo courtesy of Great Allentown Fair

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This year, the Great Allentown Fair saw a 4% increase in fair admission despite a drop in grandstand traffic. In 2015, 398,000 people came to the fair and in 2016, 394,000 attended. The reason for the apparent decrease in attendance is that Grandstand show attendance was down 11% this year while gate admissions were actually up 4%. "The decrease in Grandstand attendance affected our overall attendance figure slightly despite gate admissions being up" says Bonnie Brosious, the Allentown Fair's Marketing Director. Admission to the fair is normally $8 with kids 12 and under getting in for free. However, the fair offers admission specials which aided in the 2016 overall gate admission increase. Half priced advance sale admission tickets are available online, at the box office and at participating Walgreens stores in the area. AdditionallPhoto By Great Allentown Fairy, the Allentown Fair features a fair preview night called "Get in for a Buck and a Can" which allows fairgoers to pay the reduced fair admission of $3 or pay $1 at the gate if they bring in a food item donation for the Second Harvest Food Area in the area. "This was a very successful promotion, we collected nearly 9,000 pounds of food items" says Brosious.
Every night of the fair, there was a headline entertainer. On August 30th KIDZ BOP delighted crowds, especially families and children. On August 31st, Jake Owen and Brandon Lay took the stage, KISS with the Dead Daisies were onstage September 1st, drawing a large 80s rock crowd. Next was Chris Stapleton and the Brothers Osborne. On September 3rd, Meghan Trainor and Hailee Steinfeld headlined; this was a very popular concert, especially with teenagers. Jeff Dunham, the world renowned ventriloquist took the stage on September 4th and last but not least, the J&J Demolition Derby closed out the fair on September 5th. All the main-stage acts drew large crowds; the wide range of entertainment allowed for family fun every night. 

In addition to main stage acts, the Great Allentown Fair remained committed to family fun and entertainment in several other ways. Ground acts and strolling performers were scattered all throughout the fairgrounds encouraging family fun all over the fair. Some of the most popular acts were New Odyssey-3 guys, 30 instruments, Scott's Future of Magic, Robinson's Pig Paddling Porkers, Marvelous Mutts, Wade Henry the Entertainer; a juggler and uni-cyclist, Jimmy Sturr Orchestra, various acoustic players, and regional bands. A balance of popular, hired ground acts and local entertainment keeps families happy and maintains a strong community focus at the fair. The Great Allentown Fair maintains an entertainment budget of $1.5-$2.2 million annually. 

Powers Great American Midways partnered with The Great Allentown Fair again this year. Their ride gross was up 2.5% from 2015. The Midway featured about 30 rides made up of thrill rides, family rides, and kiddie rides to ensure that people of all ages could enjoy the Midway. The Great Allentown Fair has a great relationship with Powers Great American Midways and the fair said the carnival continues to do an outstanding job. 

The Great Allentown Fair has a strong agricultural presence. Their agri-plex and harvest patio features exhibits of things "grown, sewn, cooked, created, and collected." The agri-plex is home to all the fair's agricultural competitions and displays. Inside the agri-plex the fair features "agri-land" which is a self-guided tour through the barns manned by area farmers. The fair's "lil' farm hands" program is popular with kids and families; children learn about operating and working on a farm and can even practice milking a cow on "Aggie Hall," the fair's talking cow. Lehigh County's 4-H program runs a petting zoo filled with baby farm animals; the petting zoo also benefits the 4-H program. The judging tent at the agri-plex is an area for families to watch the daily judging of animals, participate in barnyard Olympics, and watch the 4-H livestock sale. The agri-plex is a bustling center of activity and constantly populated by children and families. 

What would a county fair be without successful, delicious food stands? This year, The Great Allentown Fair had a contest for the President's Best New Food Award. Food vendors were allowed to participate by letting judges taste their new food premiering at the fair. First place went to Vince's Cheesesteaks' new Southwest Chicken Cheesesteak; Caribbean Noodles Jamaican Jerk Chicken on a Stick won second place; and third place went to Angelo's Concessions' Walking Taco. These three foods were certainly crowd favorites at the fair among many others. Dozens of food stands diligently fed families at the fair all week long.

The Great Allentown Fair uses a comprehensive  in order to pull in guest from all over the state. Marketing Director Bonnie Brosious says that they spend a bulk of their advertising budget on television advertising and online advertising. The advertising team at The Great Allentown Fair finds that these methods are the most effective but are not ready to pare down their media mix just yet. 

The fair works with an overall budget of $3.5-$4 million. 

The 2016 Great Allentown Fair had a successful year of food, family entertainment, and fun! An increase in overall gate admission is due to a smart marketing campaign and enticing admission specials for fairgoers. The overall attendance figure decrease due to less grandstand admission is reflective of a national trend. Headline performers are harder to get and most fairgoers see these performers at festivals or stand alone concerts at arenas in the area. The 2016 Great Allentown Fair proves that a good combination of midway rides, food vendors, and family entertainment keeps customers coming to the fair. 

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