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Carnival & Fair News
Carnival & Fair News
Martin County Fair Faces Limited Space
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
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The 2018 Martin County Fair took place from Feb. 9th-17th. The fair is the largest single event in the county, organized solely by volunteers as a way to promote the county's youth, agriculture, horticulture and community resources. 
Despite the fact that the Martin County Fairgrounds have grown increasingly limited in space in recent years, the fair association strives to make the fair an annual event to remember.   
Admission Cost 
Admission cost stayed the same as last year, at an entrance fee of $7 per person. Opening night was free and children 3 and under received free daily admission. Adults over 60 received $3 daily admission.
Lower Attendance, More Midway Spending
The fair usually draws more than 70,000 people a season. However, according to Martin County Fair Manager Jay Spicer, attendance was down by 15%  in 2018. He says there was a strong weekend turnout, but attendance lagged during the week.

Even though less people visited, the fair experienced a surge in revenue from midway entertainment. Deggeller Attractions provides the fair's 35 midway rides. New for 2018 was the Hydra, which drew a crowd and was a hit with fair-goers. 

The total gross revenue from all midway attractions neared record breaking numbers.

"It's the highest we've had in a long time," says Spicer. "We had  fewer people this year but we did bring in more money via rides."
Headline entertainment was dropped this season as a way to save money and tribute bands were signed on instead. The lineup included Who's Bad - the Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience, which is the world's longest running tribute to Michael Jackson; Pirate Flag - Kenny Chesney Tribute; Kari & Billy; and pop R&B group 4AM. 

In previous years, the fair's headlining entertainment included artists such as Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Tracey Lawrence, Neal McCoy and Florida Georgia Line. 

For 2018, fair attendees also enjoyed other forms of entertainment including karaoke contests, the Mystik Magic Illusions show, the BMX Trickstars, "Family Feud"/Survivor Games and the annual tried-and-true pig races. 

New for this year, the Martin County Fair stepped back into the past and provided visitors with additional ground entertainment including the 14th Century Medieval Nights; fencing and sword fighting; and demonstrations related to the arts of whip cracking, goat milking, sheep herding, bee keeping, making honey and black powder rifle shooting. 

There was also a "Notorious Ashley Gang Exhibit," featuring stories told by The Martin County History Keepers.

Activities for children were expanded. The annual Science Fair morphed into a whole new building that revolved around STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - programming. Dubbed the Mad Scientist Lab, the 3,800 square-foot center included activities such as an egg drop competition, flight simulator, robot battles, a slime creation station, a Lego 'firewalk' where participants were invited to walk across 10-foot container filled with Legos and a Lego building contest where kids were asked to construct fair-themed creations for judging. 

The Martin County Fair is one of the only fairs in the state of Florida with a dedicated STEM building.
The fair regularly features 12 independent food vendors and there was no change from last year's  offerings. This season however, visitors did have the opportunity to check out the new General Store. Fair attendees were invited to stop by the store and take a break to shop for things like coffee, stuffed animals, candy, umbrellas and other goods.
Livestock and Agriculture
A staple of the fair, livestock events for 2018 revolved around shows and auctions. There were rabbit, guinea pig and poultry shows; steer, beef and dairy shows; swine and lamb shows; goat shows; and swine and steer auctions. Another farm-themed attraction was the Ag-Tivity Center, designed for children age 10 and under, which provided different stations, games and activities related to agriculture. The center also featured the GROWUMS program, where plants that children cultivated from seeds were showcased and judged. 

The fair's Environmental Center showcased a "Butterfly Feeding Room" and exhibits revolving around gardening and dinosaur fossils; there was also a touch tank with starfish and other sea creatures.
Martin County Fair's annual advertising budget is $40,000 and is broken down into movie theater ads, radio ads and signage around town. Most people learn of the fair through word of mouth.

"We are so small that people just know we are here," says Spicer. 
What Lies Ahead For Martin County Fair 
Martin County Fair has resided at the same location for 60 years and, with the passing of time, space for parking has become increasingly cramped - in part due to the nearby Witham Field airport expansion. This could explain why there was a lower turnout for 2018. 

Spicer says that it has become increasingly difficult to get people to come out due to the lack of parking spaces available. A new and more rural plot of land situated 18 miles west of the fair's current location is currently being considered for its future expansion.

"We would go from nine acres to 107 and that would alleviate many, many problems," Spicer says.

Aside from creating more parking opportunities, a larger and more expansive fair site would also allow for facilities such as a civic center and heritage museums. The prospective site would also be situated in a more rural location, where many of the fair's dedicated attendees live.

However, moving to the new site will not be an easy feat. The purchase would cost upward of $30 million and Spicer says it will be some time before money is readily available to secure the property for the new Martin County Fairgrounds.

Still, he is hopeful for what the future holds.

"Our fair is organically grown," he says. "There are a lot of activities and hands-on involvement from volunteers. We are the biggest small fair in the country. We have that old county fair flavor."

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