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Fair Industry Ready to RISE in Salt Lake City
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With many fairs reporting a robust 2023 edition, the industry has bounced back from the Pandemic, overcoming the multiple challenges of inflation, labor shortages, safety issues and supply-chain disruptions to become stronger than ever and more firmly entrenched in the entertainment landscape.  The International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) will not only hold its highly anticipated 2023 IAFE Convention, for the first time in Salt Lake City, Utah, but has found a theme that reflects the vibe. “The theme of the 2023 IAFE Convention – Fairs RISE (Reunite, Inspire, Support, Educate) is one of celebration and aspiration,” said Marla Calico,  President & CEO, IAFE. “The Convention itself always feels like a big reunion of friends; we always find inspiration from speakers, trade show exhibitors, and those friends; we share information about how we support our communities and our youth; and of course, education at the convention is expansive and on target!”

An essential gathering for industry leaders, fair organizers, event professionals and suppliers from around the globe, this year's IAFE Convention & Trade Show will offer a range of educational seminars and one of the largest exhibitions of fair-related products & services. If this year's IAFE theme is a clarion call to fair professionals to indeed, RISE, the programming for this year's event strengthens the relationship between the event and its partners, especially the carnival companies.

Carnival Company Seminars

Two of the most high profile workshops in this year's extensive workshop & seminar schedule are Exhibitor-Led sessions: Impact for Success – How to Create a Winning Fair Experience and Digital Integrated Ride Inspections. “

In addition, “One workshop will focus on the release of a new industry document, “Critical Conversations: The Future of the Fair and Carnival Relationship,” said Calico. “This is a culmination of a year of work of a joint task force of members from the IAFE and OABA. All told, there are over 50 workshop sessions, plus a 4-hour special symposium on emergency planning (a for-credit course of the Institute of Fair Management) and a post-Convention day-long workshop for the IAFE's “Consumer Protection Program.”

Other workshop topics include:  Collaborating With Youth for a Successful Fair Connectivity Across Your Grounds; Awkward to Awesome – How to Boost Engagement, Diversity, and Collaboration with Cultural Intelligence; Group and Corporate Sale Packages That Work Growth Through Transition – Succession Planning Essentials for Fairs & Expositions.  “The educational program of the Convention is driven by member input,” Calico said.  “With over 600 individuals from member organizations serving on committees, many great ideas for sessions were brought forward. That, coupled with the other ideas submitted by the membership through our online voting in the spring, resulted in a program filled with content applicable to anyone involved in the industry today, covering every aspect of fair operations.”

She added, “Our twelve educational committees are asked to submit at least three topics for consideration. Those topics are then uploaded to a website for “voting” by all members, and we also accept members' ideas on the same website. We filter through the results to select the topics of greatest interest then fill the rest with subject matter of industry importance. Thus, there are multiple sessions (workshops, panels, etc.) for each area of committee work: agriculture, commercial exhibits/concessions, marketing, ticketing, safety/security, non-fair facility rental business, sponsorship, competitive exhibits, etc.”

This year's seminar series also focuses on work-life balance issues now trending among human resource departments throughout the economy. For fair professionals, this balance can be even more precarious due to the stressful business of live event organizing.  “We've addressed personal concerns this year in a series of daily sessions on “Life Still Happens, Even During The Fair” to cover the topics that impact the lives of fair professionals and volunteers,” said Calico. “[Topics]  such as  parents with active teens, dealing with elder care, having another business or job to run, and parenting young children.  We will have a workshop focusing on the release of the first ever survey in North America of consumers' perceptions of food and food production, as it relates to how fairs fit in this space.”

Exhibitor Range

According to Calico, “we've configured the trade show for 310 spaces on the floor plan and expect it to be sold out. Although configured slightly different from Indianapolis, it is very similar in numbers. The IAFE Trade Show continues to have a large segment of our exhibitors from the entertainment/attractions side of business, however, technology services remain a very strong area.  We've had a number of event software-related firms come to the show this year and technology related to ticketing is still a very active segment of the business.”

“The IAFE Trade Show will provide IAFE fair members with a chance to reunite or meet with those firms providing the latest in entertainment, products and services specifically for the fair and event business,” said Steve Siever. Trade Show Manager and Director of Sales, IAFE. “This year's show will feature over 300 booths and two entertainment stages that will host showcasing on both days of the IAFE Trade Show. If a fair is looking for one stop shopping to raise the level of their fair, the IAFE Trade Show is that store!”

Other key events for the 2023 IAFE Convention & Trade Show  include the OABA-sponsored “S'More Fair Fun Event;” an attendee field trip to the Utah State Fairgrounds; Wagons & Whiskey Fundraiser –the largest fundraiser of the year for the IAFE Education Foundation; Keynote Speaker Damian Mason, author of  “Do Business Better” & “Food Fear.

All Fair Convention

The 2023 IAFE Convention & Trade Show theme of professional renewal, promises to be both a dynamic and pragmatic event relevant to the entire spectrum of fairs. “As the part-time manager (and only paid staff) of a small county fair (less than 20,000) I see so much value in attending the IAFE Annual Convention,” said Ashley Fitzgerald of the Boone County Fair, Iowa, a long-time attendee. “All the seminars provide information that is helpful to fairs of all sizes. Whether it's talking about vendors, livestock exhibition, advertising or facilities, it never ceases to amaze me that no matter the size of your fair the questions, concerns and struggles we have are all similar, and therefore the discussion surrounding solutions benefit us all. Plus, the opportunity to network with others in the fair industry always gives me new ideas to bring home.”

But, the reunion of like-minded professionals who've devoted their careers to the very unique agricultural-based outdoor event called fairs might have the most lasting benefit. “One of my favorite things about the fair industry is, although most would think we are in ‘competition' with each other, that couldn't be farther from the truth,” said Fitzgerald. “The IAFE Convention attendees range from paid staff of huge fairs to volunteers at small fairs; each attendee is eager to learn and willing to share. Attending the IAFE Convention gives me motivation to come home and make my home fair the best possible version of itself.”

2023 IAFE Convention Coverage

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