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IAFE Convention Comes to a Close; Marla Calico weighs in on the 2019 show and future
OABA discusses the need for fairs to assist in advocating for H-2B cap relief
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The 2019 IAFE Convention and trade show came to a close Wednesday in San Antonio.  This was the second year for the convention at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center.

“I am thrilled with the show this year, we had a big trade show and lots of educational sessions”, said Marla Calico, IAFE President and CEO.  Calico said she had just spoken with a couple of delegates from California that said their biggest challenge was deciding which educational sessions to attend.  There were just too many choices, they said.  Calico counseled a “divide and conquer approach because there is so much information to gather.

The trade show sold out with 400+ booths and over 300 vendors.  Suppliers from insurance companies, to entertainment booking agents to ticketing companies all competed for the attention of the thriving fair market.

Calico said about 30% of the convention was made up of new attendees and she was especially proud of the work that Brittney Harper did with the “First Friends” group for new attendees.  Harper developed ice breakers for the group, asking questions like “how many years have you worked in the industry”, then divided “rookies” and “veterans” into groups, only to intermingle them so rookies would have a mentor with more extensive experience.  She then challenged the teams to meet again on Monday and Tuesday and experience some parts of the convention together.  

While attendance was not yet available at press time, Calico said the IAFE had budgeted to be down a little in 2019 due to cyclical movements of attendance and some of the novelty of a new location wearing off, but she was very satisfied with attendance for this year. Calico said the hotel and restaurant community in San Antonio had been great to work with and moves such as the SLA show to the Grand Hyatt really improved the overall attendee experience.  

Future Convention Locations

Looking ahead to the future, Calico said the IAFE had two more years in San Antonio.  For 2022 and beyond, the IAFE is working on contract negotiations to move the convention and trade show to a different city each year.  They are negotiating with over 60 different locations, which includes discussion with government entities, hotels and convention centers. The process is time consuming and takes a lot of effort but Calico is hoping that an announcement will be made on 2022 and beyond in the near future.   

Calico said the IAFE is looking at locations using different criteria but first and foremost, the destination has to be an affordable one for members.  Calico commented that Las Vegas was not a viable option at this time as none of the prospective locations was able to come to the table with a viable proposal for the organization.

The convention theme, “Champions of Change”, was two years in the making and the process for developing the themes and program is a long, deliberative process.  The planning committee for the conventions are made up of 14 members who start out in their roles as vice-chairmen when the process begins and at the time of the convention, have moved into their seats as chairmen.  It takes a lot of work to make the convention run so smoothly for attendees and Calico said the speakers and much of the programming was already in place for 2020.

Looking to the year ahead, Calico said the IAFE is focusing on three main areas:

First, the strategic 2-year plan that was developed this past May will begin to be implemented.  The plan focuses on the engagement of members throughout the year.

The second area of concentration is delivering benefits to members by using technology and being agile in the timely delivery of information.  By way of example, Calico pointed to the disease outbreaks at fairs this year.  In both instances, the IAFE waited through the initial headlines and gathered the facts of the incidents, pulled information together for the fairs and provided a tool kit that they pushed out to members in a timely manner.  

Tools such as the Activist Response Kit and webinars are just two of the important tools the IAFE has for members to deal with issues that may develop over the year.

Third, Calico said she wants to make “Agvocates” of all fairs, developing better ways and methods to bring the agricultural message to the public through fairs.

Nancy Smith to become IAFE Chair for 2020

Nancy Smith, CFE, of the South Carolina State Fair in Columbia was chairman of the IAFE during the final business session.

Smith serves as the general manager of the South Carolina State Fair and has more than 30 years of experience in the fair industry. She began her fair work in the home and craft department of the South Carolina State Fair in 1983 and assumed a full-time position at the fair in 2000 as director of entertainment and exhibits and eventually directed the State Fair's marketing, advertising, and sponsorship departments. Smith was promoted to assistant manager of the fair in February of 2008 and was named secretary/treasurer/general manager in January of 2018.

Smith is a graduate of the Institute of Fair Management and earned her Certified Fair Executive (CFE) designation from the IAFE in 2006. She has since remained actively involved in the fair industry statewide and internationally.

She served as IAFE Zone 2 director from 2015 to 2017, representing South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. She was named second vice chair of the IAFE in 2018, assisting the chair with executive responsibilities associated with the organization in preparation for her role as IAFE chair in 2020. She served on the South Carolina Association of Fairs' board of directors for several years and completed two terms as president from 2013 to 2016, while hosting and planning the association's summer meetings several years. 

OABA Encourages Fairs to Advocate for H-2B Cap Relief

Greg Chiecko, in his first full year heading the Outdoor Amusement Business Association (OABA) was also pleased with the convention.  Chiecko praised the work in providing educational opportunities for fairs and carnivals to understand each other's perspectives.

Topics such as “Blurring the Lines” and “Carnival Relationships”, we two topics that focused on the greater fair/carnival relationship.  

Chiecko said the preeminent issue facing carnivals and fairs was the H2B Visa problem, adding that the issue is well identified but what is needed is for fairs to engage with their elected officials after recognizing that their is an issue threatening the future of their event.  The OABA he said, can provide the tools they need to discuss the issue but it is the fairs that have the standing in local communities to make a difference.

Chiecko said the OABA is focused on developing their Visual Online Training Programs (VOLT), by adding new content and encouraging more widespread use of the innovative product.  In addition, he is making sure the membership is engaged and has hired Tim Twiatkowski to help reach out to old members and developed new one through contact by phone or in person.  

The Circle of Excellence has also received some tweaks, with some modifications that include prerequisites for consideration of the designation.  Carnivals must now have a drug testing program, perform background checks and meet minimum housing standards before they can be considered for the Circle of Excellence designation by the third party auditor.

Debbie Powers of Powers Great American Midways will become Chairman of the Board of the organization at the meeting in February.


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