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  • Fear of ICE Raids & Immigration Crackdowns Decreases Attendance for Sun City Fair in El Paso
    A new fair is a rare thing indeed. Universal Fairs, a 12-year old event production company, founded the Sun City Fair in El Paso, Texas. The company and its midway partner, Reed Exposition Midway - saw a niche for a fair along the "border towns" - in Texas cities and counties.

    The sophomore edition was built on the success of last year's inaugural El Paso event. The El Paso Times, in an article previewing the fair, underlined the optimism heading into the fair. "In 2016, the event's first year, the Sun City Fair was extended an additional week due to its popularity. This year, the fair will once again feature a petting zoo, rides, games and vendors, as well as performances by the Rhinestone Roper, the Marvelous Mutts dog show, a tiger display, pig races, pony and camel rides, jugglers, magicians and more."

    Everything seemed in place for a repeat effort - a two week fair, and free with admission headliner entertainment, ranging from Christian band Diamond Rio, classic-rockers Molly Hatchet, alt-rock and indie rock bans, such as Filter and Orange Anima, and Hispanic stars El RM and Mariachi Paso del Norte.

    ICE Fear
    A windy opening day - which forced the kickoff to be canceled due to the high winds, according to local reports - proved to be an ominous start for fair that saw a tremendous decline from its positive start. But it wasn't the weather that hurt the fair as much as fear associated with the tougher immigration stance taken by the Trump administration. 

    The inaugural Sun City fair reached an attendance of 95,000. The second time around, attendance barely reached 56,000. "It was down a drastic amount," said Mr. C, a spokesperson for Universal Fairs. 

    "It seems the main decline in our attendance was around the fact that the Hispanic and Latino market is scared to go out publicly right now due to the level of fear towards deportation and ICE since President Trump has taken office," said Brian Ellsworth, G.M., V.P. of Sales & Operations, Universal Fairs. 

    "Soft attendance is an understatement," said Jimmy Reed of Reed Exposition Midways. "A 10 percent drop we can tolerate, but this was significant."

    Reed agreed that the new crackdown on immigration has had a dampening effect on attendance for a lot of fairs and events, especially along the U.S. Mexico border, events that attract - and are marketed it to - a large Hispanic population. According to Reed, it's not that fairs attract large numbers of people who could be considered illegal immigrants, but that that atmosphere of fear and apprehension has become pervasive in the Hispanic community.

    "The problem is that most of the families are either citizens or here legally, but have family members whose status may in question," said Reed. "With all the raids, the families are staying home. We have a lot of fairs along the border and they all are seeing steep declines in attendance."

    The family part is key for this segment. "Anytime you can cater to the Hispanic market, it's all about the family. They bring the kids, the grandparents, the whole extended family. They love fairs, and they love the rides, and we provide a good, clean and safe modern family environment. With the border cities, there are so many Hispanic families, and they are diverse in terms of their status and I think a lot of families just stayed home because of all the reports of raids, of people getting arrested and deported." 

    It is disheartening to say the least for the fair organizers. The current political situation regarding immigration in the U.S. is out of their control, but they did everything they could to market to this segment, including bilingual marketing programs. The Sun City Fair had an advertising budget of $100,000, with nearly 25 percent of the budget designated specifically for social media. The other media allocation included: Billboards - 40 percent, Radio 30 percent and Print 5 percent. "El Paso is a heavily Latino market, we advertise in El Paso and Juarez for the event," he said. "We run both American radio and Spanish radio spots."

    "Universal Fair ran several great promotions and really reached out to the community," said Reed. "We had great days the first year, and the second year we had days that were good but should have been great. There are different things happening along the border states though with immigration that is hurting overall attendance." 

    Reed Exposition Midway
    The Reed midway featured 36 rides, which included 12 new rides, including new Star Flyer, Bumper Cars and Dumbo ride. 

    Reed Exposition Midways is on a growth trajectory, revamping its ride inventory with a $3.6 million reinvestment for 2017.  "My brother (and partner) retired, and we needed to replace about 15 rides," said Reed. 

    The company travels essentially the middle of the U.S., going from the Southwestern  border states like Texas and New Mexico then up to the Midwest, covering North Dakota and Iowa before returning south again. Their primary markets are the small-and-mid-size fairs - typically county fairs - as well as festivals and other events.  

    Reed calls these events, "the big small fairs. That's our specialty. You can really do a beautiful show. I would rather do these events than a big state fair, where there's an independent midway but you don't have same control. A lot of the county fairs can be bigger than some state fairs. We've decreased the number of big fairs we have but have added more of the mid-sized fairs." 

    Reed pointed out that one appeal of the Sun City fair was starting something new in the fair industry. 'There are just so many shows that have been in existence for years, for more than a century, and instead of midway companies battling over other people's fairs, I like that we have started events with Universal Fairs that didn't exist before, that has been our growth strategy for the last couple of years."

    New Bacon Trailer
    The fair included 40 vendors, and, according Ellsworth, the hot food item was "a brand new Bacon trailer brought in by Kevin Exum," he said.

    He added, "We had a slew of great attractions. The Rhinestone Roper, Wolf Shows, Wade Henry magic, Steve Boger's petting zoo, pig races, The Marvelous Mutts and Kid Davie comedy magic show. People seemed to love all of them."

    In spite of the severe attendance decline for the 2017 Sun City Fair, Universal Fairs remains undaunted. They see this year as an unfortunate anomaly, and are committed to the El Paso market and convinced of its untapped potential. "Were e a growing company and we are always looking for a good market," said Mr. C. "We've been in business for 12 years as an event management company, and we have started adding fairs in the last two years. We have a good idea of the pulse of the industry. Most fairs have been around a hundred years or more, but we specialize in developing new fairs. We partner with companies and look for avenues we can fill."

    With the El Paso event, Mr. C said "We did our homework and saw there was a need for a fair in El Paso and it fit well into our route and you look for ride companies that can fit into that route." 

    Mr. C emphasized that with El Paso, that regardless of an attendance dip that by all accounts was due to current politics, the opportunity they saw there, the one that was validated by the strong first year, still exists. 

    "El Paso is a growing are and when we researched the location, we know that is growing and that our fair is growing. You're going to have off years for a variety of reasons, and you really can't judge the success of a fair until the third and fourth years. We are committed to this fair for at least five years." 

  • In spite of H2B visa issues, Jolly Shows struggles finding laborers for 2017 season
    Jolly Shows is plugging along this season despite fighting the red tape tied to the federal government's international worker program.

    The Annapolis, Md. carnival has 26 rides and operates within a 100-mile radius in its home state and northern Virginia. The show gets a jump on other carnivals in the Mid-Atlantic by hitting the road in mid-March. So far, people are spending money between the rain drops this spring, said Peter Joseph, the carnival's co-owner.

    "Other shows ask us why we open so early," Joseph said. "All we're looking for is 50 degree to 60 degree temperatures on the weekends when we can make some money, and it's worked. Up to now, our competitors have waited until April, but I've noticed a few more shows coming around earlier in the season."

    Labor has been Joseph's big battle this year. To date, unlike the last 12 years, Jolly Shows has not received its allotment of H2B workers, however, the company is having a difficult time finding domestic laborers to work the hours required. 
    This year, the federal government restricted to 66,000 the total number of H2B visas granted for foreign nationals working in the U.S., compared with more than twice that number in 2016. It's left some carnivals such as Jolly Shows in a bind, leaving them to scramble for local help to make up the difference. Joseph and his agent, James Judkins of JKJ Workforce, have had to refile paperwork twice since the 2017 season started to remain in the mix for H2B workers.

    "James did everything the right way ... but instead of being at the top of the heap [after refiling] we got pushed to the bottom of the list," Joseph said. "According to JKJ, we'll hopefully be getting some men by the first week of June. The government supposedly signed some legislation for more exemptions."

    On May 4, congress passed a law giving the department of homeland security the ability to increase the H2B Visa Cap, however, since the bill was signed, the Department of Homeland Security has not increased the cap.   Like Joseph, this leaves many hopeful carnivals in a bind who were hoping to receive their workers soon after the bill passed congress.

    Bottom line, Jolly Shows depends on those international workers to keep its operation on the right track. A decade ago, the carnival used about a half-dozen H2B laborers. The program worked well for Joseph to the point that he expanded that number to 28 workers over the past few years.

    As most other carnivals have found out, though, using Americans for seasonal labor doesn't always work out well , according to Joseph. 

    And it's slowed down their operation. Without the experience of the returning H2B workers, the process for tearing down the midway now stretches from six hours to 16 hours. At the same time, it's better to take it slow and get the job done safely to avoid potential accidents and injuries, Joseph said.

    "Even when we're lucky enough to hire U.S. residents, they don't finish out the location," he said. "They tell you they know everything. They need [cash advances] during the week and they're never satisfied. We put ads on Carnival Warehouse and the local papers. Now, we're using local temporary help services to get ride operators and tear down help. We spend a ton of money, and even with those agencies, we get the bottom of the barrel. So, to this point, my expectations are not that high."
    On the bright side, Jolly Shows has made some new ride purchases and spruced up some vintage attractions. The carnival acquired an Avalanche, an intermediate piece made in the Czech Republic. It's a one-trailer ride similar to a Wisdom Genesis with two short arms that operate in motion like an Ali Baba, he said.
    In addition, the show bought a new Hitchhiker hot dog and french fry trailer. 

    Several rides were refurbished in winterquarters. Paul Joseph, Peter's brother, renovated the Roundup and re-themed it as the Casino with the look of a giant roulette wheel with red and black cages. The Tilt-a-Whirl has been re-themed as the Atlantis, and the show's Allen Herschell helicopter has been upgraded. 

    Separately, the Paratrooper now carries a Navy Seal theme in recognition of the carnival's hometown of Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy.
    Peter Joseph takes pride in his operation and isn't afraid to stack his show up against some of the bigger carnivals in the industry. Some of its rides are 50 years old such as the Helicopter and Paratrooper, and the family's hard work and creativity have kept those attractions thriving in 2017.

    "You won't see carnival rides like Jolly Shows'," he said. "The Roundup ... I would put it up against the [much newer] Zero Gravity. The Paratrooper competes against the Cliffhanger. My brother does it all, the painting, re-racking, welding and fabrication."

    For Jolly Shows, it helps that the route is manageable and the family sleeps in their own beds most of the season. The carnival books mostly shopping centers and fireman's festivals. 

    It does play two September fairs in Maryland, including the Prince George's County Fair in Upper Marlboro, the state's longest running fair dating to 1842, according to the event's website. The other one is the Anne Arundel County Fair in Crownsville. Ninety percent of its bookings are return dates. 

    The carnival runs mostly wristband specials priced at $25 during the week and $30 on weekends. Things have changed over the years, Joseph said. Jolly Shows used to promote wristbands for slow days mid-week, but these days, customers don't have the extra money to buy ride tickets, he said.

    Joseph recognizes that pay-one-price puts additional pressure on his ride operators with repeat business, but its one that he's willing to take to get patrons to stay longer on the midway and spend money on food and drink as well as rides.  
    The family operation extends to Peter's parents, Robert and Maryann Joseph, both of whom remain active with the carnival. Peter's wife, Rhonda, runs the five food concessions. Their three grown children, Tiffany, Nicole and Dominic, lend support in the office and concessions. 

    Jolly Shows has been in existence for 43 years. Frank Joseph, Peter's grandfather, started the business in 1974 after acquiring carnival assets from Bill Enfante. At the time, Frank Joseph already had a few rides that he set up at a small amusement park in Baltimore before heading south to book with shows in the fall. Frank Joseph & Sons carnival eventually developed into Jolly Shows. 

  • DJ Battles & Social Media Promotions Keep Rainy Miami Youth Fair Strong
    In January, the contract for the headline entertainment to fill the crucial last Saturday night slot at the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition was almost completed. Then, negotiations came to a sudden collapse and as the year progressed and the March 23rd opening day grew closer, no suitable or affordable entertainer was available. 

    "It is challenge booking acts they are getting more expensive especially to have a well known act," said "Their fees have gone up, and their technical riders are longer. I've seem them as thick as 50 pages, requesting so many things in their dressing room and equipment, so it is becoming more challenging, even though we had a good lineup this year." 

    That line up was heavy on the Latin music, including an opening day concert featuring Carlos Daniels along with Mariachis: Voces de America; a Christian Concert featuring Skillet; a Latin Concert featuring Jacob Forever, and J Alvarez, the renowned Puerto Rican Reggaeton artist.

    "The Christian band Skillet and Latin Artist Jacob Forever were very popular with our guests," said Claudia Hernandez, Director of Marketing & Entertainment. "But booking this year was very challenging."

    Dee Jay Throw Down
    Even after the opening of the fair, the question of what to do for the final Saturday's entertainment remained until an answer came that was not just affordable but energized the  local fairgoers - Battle of the DJs. Similar to the Battle of the Band shows at high school dances, "we had Battle of DJs with several DJs playing music and our guests loved this," said Hernandez. "The DJs were from the Miami area, from local radio stations, but they were also very popular, and have been on the radio for years, from all genres. Some of the DJs had built a following since the 1980s. People grew up with these DJs."

    Not only did the DJs have a built-in following to supplement the fairgoer population, but the fair benefited from the on-air promotions by the disk jockey, essentially free advertising for the event. Also, the cost was a fraction of what would it takes to book a huge name artist, about $15,000 said Hernandez compared to often more than $100,000. 

    "People loved it," said Hernandez. "We almost had someone else booked, but when that fell through, we didn't have enough time to get a replacement act. We really didn't decide to have the Battle of The DJs until mid-fair. The fair was already opened when we decided to add it to the mix. But we had a great turn out and we are definitely going to add it for next year. We are going to more than replicate the success, because we are going to be able to promote better than we were able to." 

    Of course the entertainment  at the fair did not only take place on the concert stage. The fair had several new grounds acts, including: Xtreme Chinese Acrobats, Robocars, Special Head from America's Got Talent, and Them Sweeney Boys, as well as returning favorites - The Fritters; Ice Skating Show: Las Vegas on Ice; The Royal Hanneford Circus and Light Up The Night Robots.

    Because of the cost-savings due to the Battle of the DJs taking the place of a headliner, "We were able to have a little more in the entertainment budget so we added more strolling entertainment," she said. "People loved the Robocars and the Xtreme Chinese Acrobats were very popular. But we also brought back acts that people always like, such as the Pig Races and the Ice Skating show, which had a Las Vegas theme this year. Basically we want a mix of new for the guests, and acts they always come back to see." 

    10 Rainy Days
    The 2017 Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition - which marked the 66th edition of the 21-day event - was plagued by 10 days of rain - ranging from frequent and heavy downpours to spot showers. Attendance reached about 582,000, a decline of approximately 5 percent compared to last year. No record days were set, but there were several well-attended days "We had some great days with attendance of over 45,000 guests," said Hernandez. "We had a great fair, and a safe fair."  , 

    But, "when you see clouds, or when there's rain part of the day, people tended to stay home,"  she said.

    In spite of the attendance dip, food spending saw an increase of more than 3 percent. "We are still working on the numbers, but we had a lot of great options," she said. "The midway was affected worse than the food by the rain. When it rains, people still eat the food."

    There were 170 food vendors, including 10 new food items, including a combination of fair favorites - Cheesy Fried Enchilada Funnel Cake, featuring a funnel cake topped with melted white queso and chorizo. "It was very popular," said Hernandez. Other new items - many of them twists and/or combination of  a well established fair cuisine item - were Polar Bear Ice Cream's kettle corn pop - Krispy Kreme doughnut filled with vanilla and kettle-corn ice cream, dipped in chocolate, and rolled in kettle corn; Banana Nutella Spring Roll, Turkey Leg Tacos; Grilled Avocado with Black Bean Salsa, Oreos Fried in Tempura Batter and Pork Chop On-a-Stick. 

    "We are known for our food," said Hernandez. "The new food items this year also brought a lot of media attention. We seemed to have more stories about the food this year."

    The midway featuring 95 rides, was provided by North American Midway Entertainment (NAME). Due to the weather, the midway revenue dipped in "the double digits" but Hernandez cautioned that the numbers were still being tallied. The ride line-up include four new rides: Bullet Train Roller Coaster, Rock 'n Cars Bumper Cars, Vertigo and a Charlie Chopper, "for the younger ones," said Hernandez. 

    Share The Fun
    The fair's marketing theme was Share The Fun and while Hernandez emphasized that all the media platforms utilized are crucial to marketing success, clearly the tagline choice indicated that social media seems leading the marketing and promotional efforts. "Share the Fun was a great marketing theme because nowadays everyone shares so much content on social media," she said. 
    In fact, it was specifically chosen knowing that "our followers would be sharing our online promotions, images and overall general content with their friends and relatives which was excellent," she said. 

    She added, "We continued to use the social media platforms that we used in 2016: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Snapchat.  We used two hashtags that we use every year: #miamiyouthfair #betherethefair and added a new one to the mix this year: #sharethefun.  We continued to buy promoted posts on Facebook and Instagram.  In 2017, we had many contests to create excitement about the Youth Fair and to engage people on our social media platforms."

    She noted that the fair's Facebook has reached 70,000 followers and during the course of the fair, Instagram followers more than doubled, going from 2,000 to 4,830. 

    Social media and digital marketing also drove ticket sales promotions. The fair had an online sales promotion, including a holiday sale and two 36-Hour Flash Sales, essentially repeating last year's format, but with better results. "We had a 70 percent increase in total with the two Flash Sales," she said. " Our online Holiday promotion was also very successful with an increase of 85 percent from the previous year."

    Social media also allows the fair to keep a year-round presence - although actual sales start with Thanksgiving, the fair posts reminders to fairgoers for post-fair holidays such as Mother's Day and Independence Day.

    The key to sustaining an effective social media market is constant monitoring. "We are doing so many things during the fair, but it is important to keep track and monitor comments, respond to all questions. You want to always reply, it is very important to get back to people, to keep it very personal."

    The most popular posts? Food. "People love the food, the posts about the food are always the highest, it's unbelievable." 

    Social media is of course not the sole advertising format for the fair. "We still do a lot of television and radio, and we are doing a lot of advertising on buses," said Hernandez. The media mix for the fair was: 44 percent Broadcast/Cable, 20 percent Radio, 11 percent Digital, 12 percent Outdoor, 7 percent Print and 6 percent of the budget was spent on production.

    She added, "the only changes from 2016 to 2017 is that we increased Digital and decreased Print."

    With the Share The Fun theme - the word share encouraged social media interaction by the fairgoer. "We are certainly spending more than we did with digital and social media, using more sponsored posts or advertising on  websites, such as Digital is the most cost effective, you have to reach people where they are and people are on their phone all the time, constantly checking the internet on their phone. When you're promoting the fair, that's where you want to be." 

  • 2017 Social Media Marketing Trends for Fairs
    Carnival Warehouse Roundtable features a virtual discussion by professionals, experts and observers on fair industry issues

    Annual fair traditions like 4-H competitions, a Ferris Wheel on the midway and fairgoers favorite Funnel Cake may be the same year in and year out, but the social media promotion of those belevoled traditions will definitely not be same. 

    Change - an more often than not, rapid change - is inherent in social media. From expanding their social media staff, developing new content exclusively for social media promotions or adding a new platform, fair organizers and their marketing teams are developing new strategies, either adding new parts or building on what worked last year. 

    The social media audience cannot be overlooked - and certainly fairs of all sizes have become more professional about using this medium to reach more fairgoers. According to a November 2016 report from the Pew Research Center "On a total population basis (accounting for Americans who do not use the internet at all), that means that 68 percent of all U.S. adults are Facebook users, while 28 percent use Instagram, 26 percent use Pinterest, 25 percent use LinkedIn and 21 percent use Twitter. 

    What are  the 2017 trends for fairs when it comes to social media marketing? To explore the current state of social media marketing for fairs, Carnival Warehouse decided to hold its first virtual round table discussion with three authorities not just in social media but in fair marketing and of course, in fairs (and festivals). Mark O'Shea. Co-Founder, Noise New Media; Mary Weber, Social Media Manager, Innovative Marketing/Weber Consulting; and Jill Walls, President, Main Gate Marketing. These professionals have successfully used social media to market and promote dozens of fairs and if anyone has their fingers on the social media pulse of the fair industry, they do. 

    This virtual dialog is both honest and revealing about how social media is changing and how fairs can either ride this wave or flounder in its wake. As revealing are their differences in opinion on many key issues may be, what they do agree on is that social media can longer be treated an afterthought. Many fairs are still deciding on what their 2017 social media strategy  will be and this discussion can hopefully provide some astute perspectives to aid the planning process all fairs are going through. 

    Carnival Warehouse: How has Social Media Marketing Evolved for Fairs?

    Mark O'Shea: Social media now makes the fair its own media outlet. In the old days, you wouldn't give your most closely guarded secrets to the newspaper or radio station to reach your audience, but now you are own media outlet to reach your own audience. 

    Mary Weber: Facebook has become pretty much the perfect medium for fairs. It has matured into a medium used by adult women with children while kids have migrated to other platforms. About two years ago most people probably were thinking Twitter was the next big thing but it is really the only social medium that has fallen. As an industry, we're still trying to figure out how best to use Instagram and Snapchat; we still haven't found a completely successful way to use those two media.

    Jill Walls: The big benefit of social media is that it gives a brand a direct line of communication with prospects and attendees. These medium, in particular, give fairs an opportunity to promote areas of their event beyond traditional advertising channels. Social media also provides the opportunity for fairs and events to connect with their audience and create a real community online.

    CW: What social media platform is the most effective for fairs and why?

    O'Shea: It's a difficult question, there's not necessarily one size fits all, but it depends where your audience is. Facebook is the most effective for selling tickets, and has the most opportunities for marketing. We try to sell tickets, for that Facebook works the best. 

    Walls: Each form of social media offers its own benefits and audience. Facebook certainly has mass appeal, but there are really great ways to reach particular target audiences by using a mix of social media platforms to market fairs and events.

    Weber: Facebook because it reaches the core audience for fairs. It is important to keep people engaged with your posts. You must be creative with your posts and be authentic to create a large follower base. Facebook gives you the opportunity to use multi-media posts, video, pictures, text to get your messaging across. People can look at past ads, a history of posts, gather information and do it easily and effectively

    CW: Which social media platform will be the weakest in 2017?

    Weber: Twitter and Instagram - they're closed loops and not as public facing. When you post you only reach those who are following you. Its more of a one to one interaction-type or for small groups. Facebook is a multi-layered platform, people can look through your page and see what's happening not only currently but also in the past. It's almost like flipping through a yearbook whereas Twitter and Instagram don't allow for this diversity in posts, they're much more limiting.

    O'Shea: All the platforms have their strengths, and there are certain audiences for each of the platforms. But if you are looking for platforms that directly translate into ticket sales, than Pinterest is probably not the best, but for fairs that have a large creative arts components, Pinterest is very effective, and can work great for different facets of the event. But, if you are trying to the move needle in terms of ticket sales, and grow the attendance, Pinterest is not the best.

    Walls: It depends on who you are trying to reach. Certain platforms resonate with certain audiences. It is important to use a mix of social media channels based on your demographics.

    CW: Which social media platform do you anticipate growing the fastest in 2017?

    O'Shea: Snapchat is on a roll. Any industry professional is now on Instagram, but Snapchat is the rising platform, and it's huge with millennials. All the kids these days are on Snapchat. 

    Weber: If I'm trying to be cool or trendy I would say Snapchat because there is some use of filters and hashtags that generate buzz but the true answer is Facebook because they're doing work with businesses to better reach audiences. Facebook will become more useful and prominent then as they continue to innovate and build the brand. 

    Walls: Facebook Live continues to perform exceptionally well. Platforms like Periscope and Meerkat, who were at the forefront of live streaming video, have lost share to Facebook Live.

    CW: How can fairs best utilize Facebook live in 2017?

    Walls: Pre-Fair, use Facebook Live to show set-up, do some behind the scenes interviews, conduct contests and create buzz. During the Fair, use it to do man on the street interviews with event attendees, go live from some of the shows, and share the energy of the event. People want to be where others are having fun. Facebook Live gives them a real taste of the event from those who are actually there.

    O'Shea: Generally speaking, a post on Facebook, with just texts, with no photos has the lowest organic reach. With Facebook Live, can have a higher reach than an average post. You can showcase your exciting event, from sky ride and show the whole carnival. It is critical for fairs and festivals, to use Facebook Live, and also use social media to acknowledge sponsors. You can reach a higher number of people and keep them engage for a longer period of time than just a post. 

    Weber: I'm not sure the "live" aspect adds a lot to the fair since we can already take video and post it when we want to. Maybe a live ribbon cutting or press conference would be a good way to use it, like for major announcements for a fair but otherwise there's plenty of opportunities to use video on Facebook instead of being live. There could be a few interesting opportunities or immediate use ideas for it to come into play. I'm sure people will be experimenting with it throughout 2017 and maybe when we have this conversation next year we'll be able to determine if it's beneficial to our purpose.

    CW: What common social media pitfall must fairs avoid when its comes to 2017 marketing?

    O'Shea: The biggest one is that philosophically, a fair would never leave the running of their livestock show or their sponsorship department to an intern, so why would they delegate the marketing in the most forward facing media and the most important outlet for marketing to an intern? That's a mistake. You need quality content. You need somebody who knows what they are doing, to strategize about the content and what is the content, and to time when you post and what you post. 

    Weber: The most common pitfall is that they don't have a plan for posting. You need to plan when to post, who to target, when to do it, and make an editorial calendar. It is a campaign like any other advertising or public relations campaign. Unfortunately, a lot of fairs just put up random pictures whenever they can but just because it's a new medium doesn't mean it shouldn't have a plan like any other marketing tool. You need to be creative and look spontaneous but you also need content and some discipline with posting.

    Walls: I encourage my clients to think beyond the expected and be creative in the delivery. Our events are about people, and it is important to encourage and make connections to experiences rather than just tangible elements.

    CW: What are the most effective Fair posts?

    O'Shea: People don't want to read anymore, so most likely something very, very short. 
Video now work bests, but it depends on who you are targeting. With somebody 13 for instance, video works best but for somebody say 63, then a graphic with more text. People from different generations digest information in different ways.  

    Walls: Some of the most effective posts I have used are ones that encourage action and engagement from fairgoers and event attendees. What is so special about this industry are the experiences people share across generations at our events. Memories, stories, photos...these are what fairgoers share with us on social media, and they are what make the medium so effective for us from a marketing perspective. This also is great content for future marketing of the event.

    Weber: Facebook contests are definitely the most effective in terms of reach and engagement. In the contest, we have strategies we've developed to gain more followers on the page and start a conversation about the fair. Strong incentives with free items is always a winner, no matter the medium.

    CW: How often is too often? 

    O'Shea: Up to the audience. You can cycle within a day five times, if they are five great pieces and it is right before or during the fair. If the fair is not for a few months and it's snowing outside, then it's not the best time to do a lot of posts. It depends on the quality of the comments, sometimes it those fifth posts that go viral, and the impact of that is quite real. 

    Weber: I think it's more of a quality issue than a frequency issue. You want your post to be well thought out, creative, and engaging for your followers.

    Walls: I think it important to remember that social media should play a consistent role in the evolution of the Fair or event as a brand. It is not something that should be done just during the event or even in the weeks leading up to the event. It should promote and support the efforts of the facility in a year round capacity. Social media requires constant two way communication, and that should not be overlooked or even delayed.

    CW: What component of a fair marketing works best on social media?

    O'Shea: People love food, people love fair food.

    Walls: In my opinion, every aspect of the Fair translates well on social media 

     Weber: Facebook allows us to delve deeper into other aspects of the fair not highlighted in the general market ad and bring them out to our followers. Whether its the agricultural aspects of the fair, entertainment that doesn't make it into your general marketing ad, or musical acts that aren't headliners, it's a really great way to put a spotlight on other aspects of the fair in a very specific way. 
    CW: What component is the biggest challenge for social media marketing?

    Walls: Even though I own a technology company, I am a traditional fair person. I believe that the historical foundation of fairs relating to agriculture and commerce is vitally important and should not be downplayed. 

    Weber: I'm not sure it's a challenge but we can't think of social media as a pure advertising medium. It's more of a PR medium so we have to be creative and put a little more thought into what we're trying to accomplish but do it in an organic way that appeals to people. So it takes a little more time and thought to put something together that will be engaging to our followers. 

    O'Shea: Selling the tickets. Getting people to part with their hard earned money.

    CW: How can fairs improve their social media marketing increase millennial attendance?

    O'Shea: The growth market is kids, and you want the kids to fall in love with the fair. It is a little difficult with teenagers, they are a little quirky, but they will go to shows. The millennials with young kids and their families, you want them to fall in love with the concept of going to the fair as a family, seeing the entertainment, and loving the experience. That starts early.

    Weber: Social media can help build audiences and get your message out but you still need programming (concerts, entertainers, activities etc.) that will attract this group to the fair. Millennials are not a big homogenous group: some have kids, others are young professionals that spend 70-80 hours a week working so it's not like social media is a magic wand that can attract all millennials. Social media can certainly help but you still need to have programming that attracts them and advertise it well. How we reach them may have changed but we still need the content to back up the outreach.

    Walls: It is important to include a mix of digital platforms to best reach the wide fair/event audience. Social platforms like Snapchat and YouTube are very popular. In fact, according to Hootsuite, Millennials account for more than seven out of 10 Snapchat users. Younger audiences are engaged in digital platforms on a fundamental level, so reaching them this way makes the most sense. Overall, it is important to develop a marketing program that includes both traditional and non-traditional media to be most effective. 

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The Industry Buzz
Department of Homeland Security Schedules Teleconference About H2B Visa Program
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invites you to participate in a teleconference listening session on Thursday, May 25, from 2 to 3:30 p.m EST, to provide feedback on the H-2B nonimmigrant visa classification. We are interested in your feedback on the fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations legislation and, in particular, the impact that any potential increase in the number of H-2B workers may have on U.S. workers.

To join the teleconference:

Use the information below to join the session. We recommend calling in 10 to 15 minutes before the teleconference begins.
  • Toll-free number: 1-800-369-3341
  • Toll number if you are calling from outside of the U.S.: 1-773-756-4716
  • Passcode: H2B

This is intended for the DHS to get opinions from those who DO NOT WANT THE CAP RAISED and who will say that the raising of the cap will lower wages and adversely affect US Workers.  It is important that we must all be on the call to overwhelmingly show that is not true.  
  Posted by JKJ Workforce / Press Release on 5/24/2017
H2B Visa Processing - ACTION NEEDED!
We need your help to urge the Secretary of Homeland Security to immediately re-open H-2B processing.   Please call and email the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman and express the need for Department of Homeland Security to resume processing H-2B petitions immediately.  Please explain the economic impacts to your business and your American workers if you are unable to hire H-2B workers this year.  Please also encourage your American workers to call and explain how their jobs are impacted by the lack of H-2B workers.  

The Ombudsman's contact information is below:
Phone:  1-855-882-8100 (toll free)

  Posted by JKJ Workforce on 5/22/2017
Firestone Financial is excited to announce that Broadway Amusement Rides, LCC is the winner of our Take a Break on Us Sweepstakes. The winner was awarded $4,000 towards the vacation of his choice.

Based out of Myrtle Beach, Broadway Amusement Rides, LLC is responsible for managing and operating the two existing amusement ride areas of Broadway at the Beach, North Carolina's biggest festival entertainment center. The amusement ride operator has long standing ties to Firestone Financial, with owner Bill Prescott having been a Firestone customer for the past seven years.

"We just want to thank Firestone for running this contest and for being a great company to work with," said Bill Prescott. "They've been an amazing partner these last few years and our experience with them keeps getting better."

"Congrats to Broadway Amusement Rides on winning the Take a Break sweepstakes. We had a great turnout for this quarter's contest and love that we can give something back to our customers. We hope Bill has a relaxing trip and can't wait to see even more people involved in our next contest," said Tony Costanza, Assistant Vice President.

  Posted by Firestone Financial on 5/12/2017
H2B Visa Update - May 10 - TAKE ACTION

As you know, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 into law on Friday.  The law allows the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, to approve additional H-2B visas.  
The President signing the law was a wonderful first step, but we now need to convince DHS to quickly implement this provision of law and immediately resume H-2B processing.  

We need the help of every H-2B Stakeholder, Supplier, Fair or Festival TODAY. 
Senator Tillis (R-NC), Senator King (I-ME) and Representative Harris (R-MD) are circulating that attached joint Senate-House letter to the Secretaries of DHS and DOL asking them to immediately resume processing H-2B visa petitions as is allowed under the FY17 Consolidated Appropriations Act.  

This is a very rare bicameral, bipartisan letter and we need your two senators and your member of Congress to sign on to the letter.  We have TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY to get this done.

Please call and email your Senators and Representative and ask them to sign the attached letter being distributed by Senators Tillis and King & Representative Harris.  You can reach your elected officials through the Capitol switchboard at 202-225-3121.

  Posted by JKJ Workforce on 5/10/2017
In our efforts to chronicle the history of our industry, we could think of no better way to further this endeavor than to interview industry pioneers and preserve their videos for posterity.

KMG is a leading builder of spectacular amusement rides such as the Freak Out, Fire Ball (Afterburner), Speed, Inversion (Nemesis 360), and many more.

Berk Concession Supply is the number one source for concession supplies.  Call 800-323-3547 or visit for more information.  Lemonade Cups and much more!

Crescent City Amusements is seeking General Help PLUS CDL drivers, electricians, and maintenance supervisors for the 2017 season!  Call Greg at (985) 960-3013 for more information. represents KMG rides such as the Freak Out and Inversion as well as Lamberink Dutch Giant Wheels in the USA.  Check us out at or call Peter Theunisz (cell) +31-655-795-792.

EK Fernandez Shows is seeking ride attendants.  Come work in SUNNY HAWAII!  Click our ad to email your resume.

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