A healthy uptick in attendance and spending enabled the 2018 Santa Barbara Fair & Exposition to live up to its “Out of This World,” marketing theme. This California fair has become known for its thematic marketing presence and this year’s science fiction rich theme proved truly other worldly.
A report in the Daily Nexus, the student newspaper of the University of California, Santa Barbara stated: “This weekend, the Earl Warren Showgrounds… welcomed the 29th annual Santa Barbara Fair & Exposition. Featuring an “Out of this World” theme, the … event sprawled across 34 acres of property to accommodate for the hordes of guests. Arriving at the fair Saturday night, we were immediately greeted by the sight of a UFO, or rather the cutout of one acting as the roof of the ticket booth.”
According to Pat Cary, Interim CEO/Deputy Manager, like many of the themes, Out of This World came about from staff trading ideas until finally arriving on an actionable slogan. “We just sort of brain storm ideas and our themes kind of just come together. It was a fun theme, lots of alien sightings.”
Alien imagery dominated the fair mainly due to the unavoidable UFO at the entrance, as described by the Daily Nexus. The intent was to underscore the UFO theme immediately as an in-your-face concept for fairgoers to immediately enjoy upon entering the fairgrounds. When entering, fairgoers realized that aliens had landed, preparing themselves for a mix of LED rides and fair attractions that can be described as otherworldly every year. “The large space ship that looked like it crashed into our box office was quite impressive,” said Cary.
In keeping with the theme, the event’s website declared: “Greetings Earthlings! Set your laser on FUN and beam your family to the intergalactic Santa Barbara Fair & Exposition, where you can always expect the unexpected!”
It also promised: “A Galaxy of Fun for the Little Ones!”
Increased Social Media
The fair had an advertising budget upwards of $45,000, which includes radio, television and newspaper ads. In addition, the fair added a new outdoor campaign with “banners on the city buses,” said Cary.
In addition, the Out of This World theme was pumped by an increased social media presence. According to Cary, the fair added a social media person who used Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. By expanding both staff and the social media outreach – “We added to the mix, which we haven’t done much of in the past,” said Cary – the fair was able to find an optimum technological platform for a marketing theme redolent with science fiction and other internet friendly overturns.
The results paid off – attendance reached approximately 49,000 – a 7 percent increase over 2017, according to Cary. Besides an effective marketing theme well suited for an expanded internet marketing campaign, Cary pointed out that the fair was “was good. No problems, ran really smooth. We got a couple of windy days but for the most part the weather was mild, a little chilly at night.”
With spell-binding, large-scale new rides such as KMG Inversion, KMG Turbo – which which towers 120 square-feet in the air and according to Cary this year was its Santa Barbara debut – and the A.R.M Quasar, the midway by Butler Amusements – the glaringly luminescent midway by Butler Amusements -- certainly appeared unearthly.
But the company has a long relationship with this California tradition and well adept at integrating their midway into the overall outdoor extravaganza. “We used our large interactive sign in the center of the Giant Wheel to tie in to the fairs theme of “Out Of This World”, Including interactive aliens and Rocket ships,” said Sean Butler, Unit Manager, Butler Amusements.
The midway featured 31 rides, a slightly smaller ride inventory than previous years, as well as three food stands and 20 games.The top 3 rides were the Giant Wheel, KMG Inversion, and KMG Turbo, according to Butler. Other rides included Starship 3000, Wave Swinger, Grand Carousel, Giant Spinning Coaster, The Zipper, Crazy Train, Mardi-Gras , Scrambler and Zombie Carnival. Kiddie rides included Wacky Worm Coaster, Balloon Samba (from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch), Kid Town Funhouse, Dizzy Dragon and Looney Tooter Train.
The Butler Midway at the 2018 Santa Barbara Fair & Exposition also saw the debut of a cashless midway. “It was the first time we used our new cashless midway system, which allowed customers to use cards from the ticket boxes and kiosks at all rides and games,” said Butler.
The Santa Barbara Fair & Exposition is a community fair, eschewing national headliners or large concerts. The attractions include Alaskan Racing Pigs, pony rides, and a petting zoo. “The hypnotist and magician are always popular,” said Cary.
Two strolling entertainment attractions tied directly into the Out of The World theme – Robocars – half-robots and half-cars that transform into fast action vehicles (“A big hit,” said Cary.) and Alien Stilt walkers, which were Animal Cracker Conspiracy’s Stilt Characters performing on traditional “echasse” peg stilts but wearing extraterrestrial garb.
In addition, the fair created a “Close Encounters Hall” filled with interactive displays featuring artwork, photography, pottery as a showcase of local foods, wine & beer, arts & crafts, horticulture and fine arts displays.
The fair also featured 10 food vendors, and according to Cary, the hot food item this year were “Hawaiian Honey Cones, they are ice cream in a horn shaped cone.”
An increase in attendance and spending over the previous year is always good news for a fair, even if the factors that contribute to the improvement may be complex and not immediately apparent. For the Santa Barbara community, what may have contributed to a solid 2018 fair was the need for the community to actually travel Out Of This World. “The fair was great this year,” said Cary. “I think the people of Santa Barbara needed something fun after the fire and mudslides.”
“I would also like to thank Scott Grieve for his years of service to the Earl Warren Showgrounds and wish him a happy retirement,” added Butler. “We are looking forward to bringing smiles to the people of Santa Barbara after signing an extension after the fair. “