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Even With a Circus Instead of Concerts, 2022 Arizona State Fair exceeds 1.3 Million

Ray Cammack Shows provided the Midway

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Even with their biggest stage dark, the 2021 Arizona State Fair had a record attendance year, reaching 1.6 million, and while the 2022 fair tallied a few thousand fewer attendees, the23-day event again had to make do without its biggest stage.  

 The 2022 Arizona State Fair was the second post-lockdown fair without its signature concerts at the 14,870-seat Arizona Veteran Memorial Coliseum, whose 2019 lineup included The Cult, Pat Benatar and Trace Adkins.

The consecutive coliseum concert cancellations in 2033 was a lingering repercussion of the COVID-lockdown, a situation only made worse by soaring production and entertainment costs. “The 2022 Coliseum Concert Series again faced challenges stemming from the pandemic, e.g., increased production and artist costs, and a tight touring and saturated live entertainment market,” said Brianda Martinez Marketing Director, Arizona State Fair. “ The fair plans return to the tradition of filling the Coliseum with top rated talent in 2023.”

Cheetos Pizza was one of the new food offerings at the State Fair

Omnium Circus

The stadium instead was home for the Arizona State Fair debut of the Omnium Circus, called “the World's Most Inclusive Circus”.  Music was showcased via an expanded tribute concert program – The Backyard Tribute Band Concert Series –  including such replications of mega-legends as Queen Nation, Super Diamond, AC/DC, and Outlaw Mariachi. “Tribute bands have been a successful entertainment act in our Backyard Stage since they debuted a couple of years ago,” she said. “We do offer a variety of performances in our other stages as well.”

Arizona State Fair grandstand entertainment featured returning staples –All-Indian Rodeo Presented by Desert Diamond Casinos, All-Star Monster Trucks and Figure 8 Racing.

Perhaps those in the pre-pandemic past who came for the stadium superstars and stayed for the fair were also for coming for the fair too, and thus returned in 2022. The 2022 Arizona State Fair attendance reached 1,384,269, making it the 6th largest fair in North America, according to Carnival Warehouse's annual compilation of top 50 fairs.

“The 2022 attendance is higher than the 1,262,868 record in 2019,” said Martinez. Following a dark year in 2020 due to COVID-19, the 2021 hit an all-time high of 1.6 million.”

Although no record-attendance days were set, other indicators hit notable peaks. “We debuted our new “Feel Good Fridays'' promotional day, where guests can help the community by donating non-perishable food and this year we had a record setting 147,451 pounds of food donated to Operation Santa Claus and St. Mary's Food Bank,” she said.

The fair's weather was mainly primo Arizona autumn, warm and sunny. “Weather was on our side for most of the 23 days we were open except for one Saturday where it rained most of our operating day,” she added.

Turning On

If 2021 attendance was fueled by cabin-fever after lockdown and the fair being one of the few events to be opened, 2022 saw the fair in the more obstacle-laden path of reaching consumers who had an array of entertainment choices to purchase and stadium concerts to entice them. The key to unlocking this marketing puzzle was focusing on the intrinsic appeal of the fair and reminding the community why this celebration of everything Arizona has been a Valley of the Sun tradition since 1884.

Turns out the key in reaching out to the public became as simple as flipping a switch – Turn On The Fair Fun – was the marketing tagline that underscored the fair's 2022 campaign. “Our marketing team strives to stay on top of trends to be relevant as well as being innovative,” Martinez explained. “We wanted to embrace the current Y2K trends and hit the nostalgic button for the millennial generation.”

The media-mix and budget remained similar to 2021 levels, but the heated mid-term elections in this battleground state pumped up the TV advertising rates, which only further fueled the fair's youth movement by expanded its social media presence. “Our marketing budget remained the same (as 2021),” said Martinez. “We had Omnium Circus inside the Coliseum for two weeks where we utilized part of our budget that would have gone to concert marketing. (Media Mix) was quite similar but we did have to be quite frugal with TV as it was political year and inventory was slim. We utilized TikTok and created more Reels on Instagram.”

This social media expansion was not an isolated campaign, but included partnerships with the fair's long time midway provider, Ray Cammack Shows (RCS). “I have to give kudos to the fair's social media this year,” said Chris Lopez, Vice President, RCS. “They are posting great content, pumping it with live feeds and special discounts. They ran promotions and specials, always tagging us, and we were always sharing content. They produced so much quality content this year, it was great and made a real difference.”

Ray Cammack Shows

The Ray Cammack Shows midway featured 65 rides, up from 57 in worker-strapped 2021, featured the Arizona State Fair debut of the Sea Ray and Euro Dodgem. “This year, there were no restrictions, which is why we had fewer rides in 2021, to have them more spread out,” said  Lopez. “We were able to get closer to our normal numbers, which I think is 68 rides. The beauty of it is that 65 rides fit in the fairgrounds perfectly. We proved that less is better.”

He added, “Arizona is our own home state fair, so that's always an end to our season. Attendance did dip, but we were right on track with 2021, which was a banner year, but we lost a whole day Saturday and we had some very gnarly lightning. There was also a Cardinals game, so we had some traffic problems.”

Spending was strong, carrying over the consumer-confidence fair-attendees experienced nearly industry-wide in 2022. “Per caps remained up, even with 2021 levels,” said Lopez. “This year, it was not unusual to see customers return twice, even three times. I saw that more this year.\

And the lack of coliseum concerts? Lopez only saw the bright side – circus fans and free-stage music fans showed more midway love than many coliseum concert goers. “The circus that did phenomenal and the stages outside were great, with the tribute bands and a lot of local acts. You have a captive audience for the midway.”

“We are extremely satisfied with our 2022 Fair,” said Martinez. “We were able to hire enough seasonal staff this year as we increased our pay rate. We are ready  to start focusing on bringing concerts back into the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in 2023.”
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