Last year, severe snow and -10 temperatures impeded the 98thannual convention of The Indiana Association of Fairs (INAF). Clear skies and January thaw temps in the 40s proved to be the ideal climate for the annual gathering of Hoosier Fair professionals for the 99th convention of the INAF.
About 1,300 representatives of fairs and/or festivals and 425 associate members attended the 3-day convention, an increase of more than 100 attendees representing 61 Fairs, 11 Festivals and 122 Associate companies or organizations. Maybe the mild winter weather was a factor, coupled with an enthusiasm planning next year's centennial convention, but the overall mood was determinedly upbeat.
“Overall, everyone seemed to be happy because last year the fairs were very successful, the weather wasn't as impactful here as in other parts of the country,” said Steve Patterson, Director of Administration for the INAF and Executive Director of the Hendricks County 4-H Fair.
He added that besides strong attendance, the state's agriculture industry has been on the upswing which has had a beneficial impact on the state's fair business. “The 4-H programs for youth are very strong. People are not just working on beef and poultry but goats and other projects. They are STEM projects, getting the fairs involved in topics and program that as pertinent as possible.”
The healthy position of the state's fair industry seems to have not gone unnoticed. Three ride companies – Amusements of America, Bluegrass Rides and Trans America Amusements – were represented for the first time at the INAF gathering, eager to meet what appears to be a expanding statewide demand for bigger and better midways. “The local and county fairs here are looking to developing their midways,” said Patterson. “These companies can bring the nicer, higher capacity rides. Fairs are looking at what is out there in other states. The new carnival companies are looking to support our industry.”
In addition to attracting new ride companies to the state, providers of other product categories are also showing interest in Indiana. “We had an E-Sports provider for the first time,” said Patterson. “This is an up and coming thing, there's interest, but it's kind of an unknown, just like electronic ticketing was. This was a first step.”
He added that “lots of entertainment and more strolling acts than last year” also came to the 99th convention.
Entertainment showcased at the INAF convention included: Woody Wright, The Indigos, Juggler Yoder, Derek Joseph (Represented by AStar Promotions), Cody Ikerd and the Sidewinders, Cook & Belle, 45RPM, Big Top (Represented by AB Entertainment – Mary McGhee), DeWayne Spaw, Wildfire (Represented by ABE Agency – Jon Spindler), and the Cincinnati Circus.
The trade show featured ninety-five vendors, an increase over 2018. All of the hospitality suites at the convention venue were sold out with 10 associate members hosting meet & greets and smaller receptions throughout the event.
The latest in fair safety and security dominated the educational sessions of the convention. The most well attended seminar – Active Shooter Training – had 101 attendees. Code Purple Training – “reuniting lost children with parents was very also very popular,” said Patterson.
Other topics included Facility Operations, ADA Compliance, and Preventing Zoonotic Disease Transmission. The convention had 39 sessions. “We also had sessions on marketing, Facebook and social media, those types of sessions,” he added. “It was a very good program. We try to balance the relevant courses and training within the time frame we had. The emphasis seemed to be on safety and security, that's what people seemed most interested in this year.”
Patterson added that the sessions are not purely instructional, and are designed as interactive workshops. “Many great ideas were shared and brought to the table during these educational sessions.”
The 99th convention was presided over by INAF President Jerry Hammon with the Allen County Fair. Poor Jack Amusements was recognized as the Associate of the Year. Candi McKinnies-Shreve with CMS Entertainment was selected to join the INAF Board of Directors for a four-year term. The INAF's Variety Attractions Hall of Fame recognition was bestowed on Diana Kuhn of St. Joseph County, Owen Gross of Allen County Fair, Cynthia Hoye of the Indiana State Fair and Judy Engelhardt of Vanderburgh County Fair. Marshall County Blueberry Festival, Hendricks County Fair, and Vanderburgh County Fair received the annual INAF Communication Awards.
The INAF also include the installation of its new roster of officers: Lynn Kuhn from Rush County as President; Ellen Wilson-Pruitt from Morgan County as President-Elect and Tom Lump from Lake County as Vice President. Kim Roberts of Johnson County will serve as Treasurer. Top of the agenda for these newly installed officials will be planning 100th INAF Convention in 2020.