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Carnival & Fair News
Carnival & Fair News
Florida State Fair adds New Entertainment for 2018
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
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The 2018 Florida State Fair, held February 8th-19th, focused on providing fairgoers more entertainment than ever before and creating ways for families to affordably come out to the fair. While attendance was slightly down from last year, consistent with other major 2018 fairs so far this year, there was plenty to celebrate about the event. Executive Director, Cheryl Flood, is already planning ways to make the 2019 fair better than 2018. 
Attendance and Family-Oriented Discounts
2018 fair attendance was 423,726 compared to 2017's 440,718. During the fair, adult admission was $13 and kids admission was $7 (6-11), kids 5 and under were free. Before the fair began, guests could purchase advance sale tickets through the Florida State Fair website or at local Publix stores. 
Other than the advance sale, fairgoers could take advantage of themed days throughout the fair featuring discounted admission. Opening day of the fair was Heroes Day "Military, Police, Firefighters, and First Responders got in for free with ID and could bring up to 3 family members with them for free," says Flood. February 10th was 4-H and FFA day, and "Seniorrific Days" featuring discounted admission for seniors 2/12-2/16. 
For the first time this year, the Florida State Fair teamed up with a local chain, Hungry Howie's to create "Hungry Howie's Family Nights." The deal was available after 4pm Monday-Thursday nights the second week of the fair; for $50 families received 2 adult admission tickets (over 18), two child admission tickets (under $18), 2 adult wristbands, and 2 child wristbands. A box top coupon was available for $5 off the family four pack. The chain even held a very successful pizza eating contest at the fair on Tuesday, February 13th.  On 2/16, the fair featured $5 admission after 5pm. Lastly, the fair worked with Coca Cola to create a promotion for the last day of the fair. "Admission was $5 when you brought in an empty Coca Cola product bottle or can," says Flood. 
"We had tons of new entertainment this year appealing to all ages," says Flood. Some of the new acts this year included: Professor Smart's Science Show, Josh Knott's Extreme Illusions and Escapes Show and camel rides. The 2018 fair also featured an "extreme sports series" for the first time which featured a BMX/FMX Freestyle Madness Show, Mini Monster Trucks, Lawnmower races, The Ninja Experience show, and for the first time in decades, a demolition derby. 
Also new this year, the fair booked shows featuring stars from popular Disney and Nick shows. Teen Stars Live starred characters from current popular shows with lots of interactive elements for the audience. The teen stars included: Calum Worthy from Austin & Alley, Addison Riecke from the Thundermans, Sky Katz from Ravens Home, and Kevin Quinn from Bunk'd. 
Finally, the fair hosted the first ever Florida State Fair Dance Championships. Stars from the hit show Dance Moms judged the final of the competition. Gianna Martello and Chloe & Christi Lukasiak were there to rank the performances and offer constructive advice for dancers. The fair partners with Ms. Lisa's Dance Studio, a local dance studio, to run the contest. Gianna Martello also hosted a Master Class for dancers. 
The fair also worked with their local PBS station to create a PBS Kids Zone in one of the buildings on the fairgrounds. The Kids Zone featured 18 costumed characters from popular PBS shows, arts and crafts, dance parties, interactive games, and story times. According to WEDU, the local PBS station, the Kids Zone was the largest gathering of PBS costumed characters ever. This was a great opportunity for families with smaller children to beat the heat for a bit and interact with some of their favorite characters.
In addition to staged shows and ground acts, the fair booked a few strolling acts: The One Man Band, Fritters, and Max Power the Robot. 
In terms of musical acts, the Florida State fair welcomed back some old favorites including Leroy Van Dyke's Country Gold Tour and Dennis Lee. They tried something new with the Country Gold Tour this year; admission into the performance was included with fair admission, but seats on the floor of Entertainment Hall and closer to the stage were extra. The new Country Gold Tour model was successful, the shows were all well-attended. Two stages: The Tampa Bay Times Stage and the Sleep Number Stage, rotated musical acts throughout the fair. The Tampa Bay Times Stage featured acts such as Dennis Lee and Kazual while the Sleep Number Stage featured local bands each night.
The Florida State Fair midway is Independent and managed by Frank Zaitshik and Wade Shows. "This year we had 110 rides on our midway and 13 different ride companies represented," says Flood. The ride gross was slightly down from 2017 at $4,527,371 compared to 2017's $4,782,746, but was still the second best ever.
Frank Zaitshik, President of Wade Shows, had many positive things to say about the 2018 Florida State Fair "We had ideal weather and some people thought it was too hot. However, we were up going into the last day of the fair but the kids were out of school on President's Day last year and this year they were in school due to a Hurricane make-up day so that hurt us," says Zaitshik. 
The 110 rides at this year's Florida State Fair included the State Fair's Mega Slide which Wade Shows manages for them and the Midway Sky Eye. "We had some great independent operators on the midway this year that did a fantastic job," says Zaitshik. Despite the decrease in ride gross this year, 2017 and 2018 are still the two best ride revenue years at the Florida State fair, according to Zaitshik.
Wade Shows continues to work to improve their customer service on the midway as well as guest amenities. "We have a great relationship with lots of cooperation at the Florida State Fair. Under Cheryl Flood's direction I believe the fair is headed for great things. Knowing Cheryl and her staff, I believe they won't rest until 2019 is better than 2018," says Zaitshik. 
Although he was in constant communication with his management team, Zaitshik was unfortunately ill for most of the Florida State Fair. He congratulated Jimmy Danton, Mike Thomas, and the rest of his management team on a job well done. 
The 2018 fair featured several unique food items that were advertised prior to the fair. The Chicken and Waffle Pizza, Banana Frenkle Funnel Cake, BBQ Pulled Pork Ribbon Fries, Chicken Parmesan Chompers, and Firecracker Corn were crowd favorites. Lastly, The Big Jerk: 2+ pounds of tortilla chips layered with island rice and beans, shredded jerk chicken, lettuce, Caribbean cheese sauce, and fresh pico-de-gallo won the People's Choice Food Award this year. 
Livestock And Agriculture
The Florida State Fair places a big focus on the livestock and agricultural aspects of the fair. One of their main missions is to educate the people of Florida about agriculture and livestock around the state. There were plenty of exhibits at this year's fair centered around education. 

The Ag-Venture Tent, Agricultural Hall of Fame Building, Youth Poultry and Rabbit "Ask Me" booths, and Educational Showcase Field Trips for 1st through 5th graders provided information for fairgoers of all ages. 
Little Farm Hands was a new educational exhibit at the 2018 Fair. "The focus group for the building were 3 to 7 year olds and aimed to teach them where their food comes from. As the children came into the building, they were given an apron and pail to collect products at different stations. A few of the activities included collecting eggs from chickens and placing them in egg cartons, milking a dairy cow and collecting an actual milk carton and picking some Florida oranges. This exhibit was extremely popular for the parents and kids," says Flood. 
The fair's livestock shows this year included: open and youth beef and dairy, youth swine, youth steer, open and youth dairy and boer goat, open pygmy goat, open and youth rabbit, open and youth poultry, youth sheep, open and youth llama, and youth dog. One new show added this year was an open Charlois show. According to Flood, animal numbers were up this year and exhibitor numbers were consistent. 
The Florida State Fair works with a budget of approximately $450,000 to advertise the fair. They spend 45% on Television, 35% on radio, 13% on billboard/outdoor, and 7% on print. 
Advertising material was centered around the 2018 fair's theme "Discover The Fun at YOUR Florida State Fair." Flood and her staff came up with this theme to remind Floridians that the fair is all about them and something they should be proud of and enjoy; "Each year we're surprised by how many folks don't know about the Florida State Fair so we wanted to create a campaign that put a strong emphasis on its connection to the people who live in Florida. We are the Florida State Fair and we belong to all the people who live in this great state. It's a tradition that's been going on for 114 years and with your help, it will continue to go on for another 100 or more years," says Flood. 
Staff and Goals For The Future 
The fair hires about 700 season employees to help the fair run smoothly. There are about 60 year-round employees at the Florida State Fair office. 
When asked about some proud moments from the 2018 fair, Flood said, "We had wonderful weather, lots of new exciting entertainment, and most importantly a safe and family-friendly event where memories were made." 
When asked about goals for the 2019 fair, Flood said, "For the 2019 fair I wold like to continue to grow our entertainment and increase what we offer the the public in the evenings, increase our community involvement, and finally grow our attendance."

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