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The National Orange Reaches 103 Years of Citrus-Themed Entertainment
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The National Orange Show celebrated 103 years of citrus-themed entertainment this year, and according to fair coordinator Tim Ellis, “attendance was up and the weather was spectacular.”

The San Bernadino, Calif. fair and its attendees both had plenty to celebrate, with a return to its roots as a true fair celebrating regional agriculture, as well as a carnival attraction. “I want people to know that the National Orange Show is still here, and it’s really a tribute to the whole citrus industry,” Ellis attests. “This area of California was the leader in growth and packaging in the citrus industry, and we are here to celebrate that fact.”

The fair used Butler Amusements to provide its wide-ranging carnival attractions; at the Grandstand Ellis notes that “We had local musical entertainment this year. We also held a live shark encounter, and for the first time in 15 years, we had livestock back to exhibit. People really welcomed that. We had lots of compliments over the fact that we had animals back.”

Every attraction, from the animals to the musical entertainment was included as a part of the gate admission; the only additional costs for attendees were the carnival rides.

“Everything else was free with admission,” Ellis noted with pride. “We also welcomed Venardos Circus, The All Alaskan pig races, and Randy’s Wild Turkey races, dog races, pony rides, and the Freckle Farm Petting Zoo and pony rides. In the Citrus Building we offered all kinds of children’s activities for free as well, including the ability for kids to garden and plant.” He adds that there were also coloring and baking contests, and citrus display contests involving the local community organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. Using only citrus fruits – such as oranges, lemons, limes and more, art work and designs were created that drew plenty of “juicy” oohs and ahhs from fair attendees. There were other contests also a part of the mix, from photography to a juried art exhibition that offered a top $700 prize. The 3rd annual local Battle of the Bands offered some lively musical competition, too.

The fair offered fun educational programs that covered a variety of Southern California agricultural subjects with the focus, of course, on citrus. The goal was to educate and entertain attendees by presenting a part of the state’s geographical heritage and imparting information about the future of agriculture.

Commercial vendors also provided plenty for fair attendees to enjoy, from the House of Pistachios to One Love Jamaican Products, there were a wide range of products to see.

Ellis describes the positive changes that were brought to this year’s fair. “For awhile there, the fair was more of a carnival atmosphere than a real fair. But this year,” he attests, “we did a whole grass roots campaign, getting over 150 volunteers from the community and local colleges. They manned local information booths, ran our kids’ activities, and helped set up. We did a whole process of getting them more involved in the community. We added the livestock to our exhibits. And we even had a model train club set up a big display as well.” Ellis enthuses that “We are planning to continue the volunteers and community involvement for next year as well.”

The fair was held at indoor spaces and outdoor grounds on over 15 acres of property. With the wide variety of activities and attractions, Ellis found several that were the most popular this year. “I would say the circus, our shark tank attraction, and our community stage -- which featured local musicians, dance groups, dance schools, and college performances, were the most popular over all.”

Another point of pride for Ellis was the fair’s Military Appreciation Day and Dinner, a project that is now in its 4th year at the National Orange Show. “This was open to any active or retired military member and his or her family. We served dinner to over 638 armed-service members this year and their families,” Ellis asserts. “After the dinner, we had a popular local country band on stage for them. We also offered free admission to enjoy the fair, as well as free parking.”

Even for non-military attendees, the fair was resolutely reasonable. “We were free opening day and on Sunday. On Thursday and Friday, admission was just $2. It was $5 on Saturday. That’s really quite a bargain, but we were trying to get the community back to the fair, and enjoying everything we had to offer,” Ellis relates.

Carnival rides were available inclusively for a $25 wristband; costs for individual rides were $2 to $4 per ride. “The rides were pretty standard, very entertaining stuff, such as the Ferris Wheel,” Ellis explains.

Of course, part of the fun of any fair is the food, and that was hardly an exception at the National Orange Show. “Among the most popular food items were a deep-fried pork chop on a stick, cheese curds, and turkey legs from Mestmaker, and of course, funnel cakes. Those were the real crowd pleasers,” he relates. Stroud Monster Dogs were also a big hit. There were ethnic treats from Mexican to Chinese and soft-serve ice cream offerings as well.

The fair is already planned for another Cinco de Mayo weekend next year, and Ellis feels it is the perfect weekend to celebrate the citrus industry and the community itself. “I plan to continue to get residents involved, to follow strong community advertising practices, and make sure that everyone is aware of the fair.”

To that end, Ellis has employed conventional advertisements in newspaper as well as using a great deal of social media. But key to his advertising and promotion this year was the use of grass roots marketing. “We handed out flyers and put up posters. We offered discount tickets and free tickets to the public. We went to every Little League game and to the park on Saturday afternoons, and we handed out our free passes and flyers. We wanted to get everyone to come and enjoy the National Orange Show this year.”
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