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Nevada State Fair Breaks Records with Focus on Family & Community
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All fairs are local. Nevada may be famous worldwide for the glitz, glamor and gambling of Las Vegas, but when it comes to its state fair, community is the main attraction: the regional music acts populated the state, a pavilion dedicated to Nevada-Made crafts and artisanal products was a main attraction, and the new innovation for 2019 was incorporating a Home & Garden Show, a consumer-trade show nearly custom-made for the families and homeowners who come to the fair.

Best of all, the weather was ideal late Spring temperatures, without any rain. This local event doesn’t charge admission, so gauging precise attendance figures is problematic, but according to Brian Aranda, Entertainment Director and spokesperson for the Nevada State Fair, “we had great attendance, with record-breaking turnout. We are very pleased with the turnout.”

Rebooting NSF
This robust support from the community it serves was a much needed shot in the arm for this event, which has been struggling to gain a foothold ever since being revived in 2013. The Nevada State Fair was founded in 1874 and had been Nevada’s longest running event, until an array of issues promoted its Board of Directors to end the fair after 136 years in 2010.  In 2013, a new Nevada state non-profit company was formed, and with significant state and private partnerships, the Nevada State Fair returned, as a new nonprofit entity and more engaged board of directors, as well as move from Reno to Carson City.

The fair’s new mission focused on the regional market. “We want to keep our event free and open to the public,” said Aranda. “We cater to the community, and as a nonprofit, it’s our mission to bring in people from the area.”

It seems with the 2019 uptick in attendance, effective programming proved to be a turning point for the fair, erasing qualms and enriching the confidence for event. “The weather was perfect, for this year’s fair,” said Harry Mason of Brass Ring Amusements.  “It always draws a nice crowd, but this was by far the largest.  We’ve been working with the fair to rekindle the flames over the years, and this year was the best. People came out for the fair this year.”

Mason had been involved with the earlier incarnation of the fair and feels its history of mismanagement was a factor leading its demise. He admits to even being skeptical when first approached with the idea of providing the fair’s midway. The reboot has seemed to have taken hold, and it seems 2019 has removed any doubt. “We were up 20 percent, which is always good news.”

“The midway had 25 different rides,” said Aranda. “They had a mix of new rides, and brought back some past favorites, like the Sling Sot.  Brass Ring Amusements is very professional.”

According to Mason, the midway footprint was a “little limited by the geometry, the midway was longer rather than narrower than what we typical do. We had some new rides, like Jumbo the Elephant and our new Strawberry ride.”
The highest grossing rides were the Giant Wheel and the Orbiter, according to Mason.

Marketing Partnerships
Mason partnered with the Nevada State Fair marketing campaign. “I worked with a social media company that handles our social media, Instagram and Facebook and digital marketing. They understand the demographic and did very targeted geo-fencing. Groupon worked very well, it was another way to target the market.”

The most effective marketing proved to be discounted all-day wristbands. “The economy is better, but people are looking for bargains. If the price is right, they perceive value.”

The Nevada State Fair also benefited from an intensive publicity mechanism. Mason mentioned that he and his staff actually opened the midway at 4:00 AM so a local morning show could do live remote broadcasts.  “We had very good coverage,” said Aranda. “We had radio and TV doing live segments during the day, they would cover everything from the ride operation to people selling the food. We seemed to get a lot of coverage this year. We had four major media outlets doing live feeds that went throughout the state. The local press from Reno and Carson City also came.”

Noting that news outlets and other media sources receive hundreds of press release each day, Aranda emphasized that “you have to make a personal connection with the news outlet and the reporters, and you have to do it politely. It takes a personal connection for being on their radar.”

The fair also reached out to the Hispanic market through target advertising on radio as well as event programming and a wide selection of Latin cuisine. “We reached the local Hispanic market in Spanish-language newspapers and radio. It was our second year doing this outreach and it paid off. We showcased Spanish bands and Mexican food, we want to have something for everyone in our community.”  

For its social media marketing, Aranda found that less is more. “You want to keep the ads simple, not much text.”
One Facebook promotion particularly effective was a “sharing contest’ to find out who could “out share” other fairgoers. Posts received more than 400 shares, said Aranda.  

Carson City Community
Knowing the market and the mission of the fair also helped foster the success of the newest attraction, a Home & Garden Show, which was set up in a pavilion, in a facility that had not yet been used in previous fairs. This new programming fit into the family oriented atmosphere of the fair. The interactive vendor experience featured local landscapers, hardware stores as well as items ranging from flagpoles to Jacuzzis.  “It was something for the older demographic that we wanted to integrate into the fair,” said Aranda.  “It brought out people who may not have visited the fair before, and for parents with older children, they bought the wristbands for their children then they went to the Home & Garden Show.”

While not new for this year, another new section was Nevada Made, a showcase of arts and crafts and artisanal products, which included more than 50 vendors “Our mission is to bring all sorts of people to our area and we were able show off all the things our DIY community in Nevada. They had hand-made items and unique handcrafted work from individuals from across the state.”

Entertainment – which included musicians, jugglers, clowns and other acts – also had a regional appeal. “The fair focuses on the local talent in the community. Why bring in out of town talent? We pride ourselves on all the variety of acts in our own backyard. Many of the bands have their own following, and they bring that audience to the fair.”
From the marketing to the program, the revived Nevada State Fair is now a thriving annual event due to its commitment to family and community. “We are all very pleased with the feedback we’re getting about this year’s fair. When people mention online how happy they are about the fair, it shows that we did a good job.”
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