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  • 2017 Minnesota State Fair Breaks Attendance Record Set Last Year
    9/21/2017
    Few fairs are as iconic and successful as the Minnesota State Fair. Exemplifying the optimistic, and egalitarian so often attitudes associated with the Midwest, the Minnesota State Fair also enjoys state-wide support, living up to its tagline, of Minnesota's Great Get Together, year in and year out.

    But however iconic, successful and long running an outdoor event is, back-to-back record breaking attendance for one of the largest outdoor events in the U.S. is a significant and noteworthy accomplishment. "You can't plan for a record breaking year or the kind of fair we had," said Jerry Hammer, General Manager, Minnesota State Fair. "To fully appreciate this year, you have to realize how incredible last year was.  In terms of attendance, which drives spending and economic impact, in that context, this is the third time we went over 1.9 million, and remember, we do not count kids, so that's at least another 100,000. It is quite a jump." 

    Record Setting
    Officially, the fair's 2017 record total was 1,997,320, surpassing the previous record of 1,943,719 set in 2016. In addition, three different record attendance days were set: Monday, Aug. 28, with 144,504 visitors; Friday, Sept. 1, with 187,066 visitors; Sunday, Sept. 3, with 242,759 visitors. "It is extraordinary we had 50,000 more than last year," he said. The weather was generally cooperative, although actually better last year. There was rain on two weekend days, said Hammer, "we had bad rain on one day, but we still had 160,000 that day, in ponchos and with umbrellas," he said. The midway always suffers the most when it comes to inclement weather, but "we have several buildings and barns, so we create an inside environment people can enjoy." 

    Hammer did point out a few factors that the fair has strived to keep returning. Probably the most key rule of thumb underscoring the fair's philosophy can be summed as too much is never enough, "give them too much to do," said Hammer.  "You want to give people the feeling that the more you explore the fair, the more things you find to do."

    What this does is not only add value to the price of admission, but encourages repeat visits. He mentioned an anecdote about a family member's coworker who said she went five times to the fair, "she said that were so much to do that she had to keep coming back, so clearly people like the environment, where you want to come back, where you don't want to miss something."

    In addition to abundance, affordability is likewise key. "The first thing is to make it affordable. That happens in the context of having a lot of things to do. At the Band Shell this year, watching George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, and I was talking to a young man and was really excited to see George Clinton for only $14, where a ticket to see him at a club would be $40. You have to make the fair experience affordable."

    Park & Ride
    Lastly, accessibility is a necessity for fairs. Traffic snarls and parking can be the bane of many outdoor events, and fairs are just as susceptible to word of mouth, intensified by Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp.  The fair developed a Park & Ride system with stations throughout the Twin City area, where free shuttle buses take attendees to the West Market, which opened in 2014 and featured a the new Transit Hub - which utilized a restored, 80-year-old "arch" - from a North St. Paul train depot. According to Hammer, about a million people use the system, an incredible easement for parking and traffic woes. The convenience though is only one aspect. One reason the new commute to the fair works better now than before is that fairgoer riders were dropped off on what Hammer described "as a dusty lot between buildings,' then walked to the gate. "Now when you arrive at the transit hub, there's a sparkling entrance, and history, and you are already at the Northern part of the fairgrounds," he said. 

    Like the best of customer amenities, the Park & Ride system is not just more convenient, the West End Market and its Transit Hub, enhanced the fair experience. In fact, it's that very experience Hammer feels is another factor in the recent winning streak of record-setting Minnesota State Fairs. "Coming to the fair makes people feel good and they leave smiling," said Hammer. "Older people remember the times they had here and keep coming back. People come to the fair to get that sense of feeling good. Maybe it's something in the human condition that we need to feel grounded, to laugh out loud."

    As the fairgoers using the Park & Ride system now enters the West Market, immediately being thrusted into the Fair milieu,  this universal need to escape the troubles of the day has fueled the continued success of the Minnesota State Fair.  "I think we can all agree, that whatever your politics, things are pretty screwed up right now," said Hammer. "People come to the fair just to feel good because so many things today are screwed up." 

    Grandstand Sell Outs
    The regional economy has seemed to stabilize, accentuating the positive attitudes driving attendees through the gates. There were upticks in spending for food & beverage, and a record (paid ticket) concert attendance -- total Grandstand attendance was 120,383, again beating the previous record, in 2016, of 111,319. Sold out shows included: John Mellencamp with special guest Carlene Carter, Pentatonix with special guest Us The Duo and Sam Hunt with special guests LANCO and Ryan Follese.

    "It was our best year in the grandstands, and we remodeled the grandstands," said Hammer. While booking is still a sellers market, he does feel that this year things were a little easier than previous booking cycles. "Two years ago, it was a tougher market.  Booking is built on relationships, and Renee Alexander (Deputy General Manager of the Fair and in charge of booking acts at the fair) works closely with agents and has a good reputation with those agents."

    Just prior to the fair, the Minnesota Star Tribute ran an article entitled, How Minnesota State Fair is Winning the Battle with Casinos for Grandstand Acts, which stated one reason the fair was able to stay aggressive against the rising competition was lineup diversity. "Eight of the 11 acts at this year's Minnesota State Fair grandstand have never headlined there. "It's probably one of the most diverse lineups we've had for quite some time," said Alexander.

    Great Big Wheel
    The Minnesota State Fair's independent midway featured 60 rides (30 in the Midway; 30 in the Kidway) and 47 games, which meant contrasting with 23 ride providers and 12 game concessionaires. 

    The foot print was similar in size to 2016, but the total midway revenue did take a hit of 5.9 percent from last year, reaching $6,912,437.24, down about $431,611, with rides alone down by $261,322, while games dropped $170,288. "It goes with the territory," said Jim Sinclair, Deputy General Manager, Minnesota State Fair. "We had period of inclement weather and the midway is susceptible, and it doesn't track with the gate. We had a rainy day, and a cool, first Saturday. We didn't get rained out, but we only recovered some. We still had a good fair."

    Not included in the midway gross was the new addition of the 156' tall Great Big Wheel - co-owned by Wade Shows and Wood Entertainment - which was sponsored by Cricket Wireless. The wheel was placed on a hill, and like the sky-glider, is considered an off-midway ride. The wheel was located near the edge of the fairgrounds, and Sinclair said, "we always wanted a wheel on that hill. We wanted the wheel to be on highpoint of the fairgrounds because we wanted a great view from the wheel."

    Sinclair said the wheel had 216 riders per cycle and at times, about 1,000 riders per hour were on the wheel during peak time. "You are not going to get the full capacity every time, but we had a total of 124,958 riders. The wheel had a very positive impact on pedestrian flow, by placing it away from the midway it brought new people to concessions in that area of the grounds."

    In addition, the size, height, capacity and impressive array of publicity about the ride added to the premier of the new "Great Big Wheel," which Sinclair said is the new "iconic image of the fair and exceeded all expectations." 

    Top 15 Rides & Games at the 2017 Minnesota State Fair

    RIDES

    1. Crazy Mouse Spinning Roller Coaster S.J. Entertainment 
    2. Starship 3000 Laser Fair, Inc. 
    3. Sky Flyer Reithoffer Equipment Co., Inc. 
    4. New York New York Fun House Fair Ride Entertainment LLC 
    5. Puppy Express Prime Pacific Ent. LLC 
    6. Galaxy Roller Coaster Reithoffer Equipment Co., Inc.
    7. Wave Swinger - Fair Ride Entertainment LLC
    8. Air Max Mr. Ed's Magical Midways LLC 
    9. Tilt-A-Whirl Lauther Amusements 
    10. Flipper S.J. Entertainment 
    11. Equinox Laser Fair, Inc.
    12. Arabian Daze Fun House Fun Attractions LLC
    13. Magic Maze Glass House Wood Entertainment Company, Inc.
    14. Dragon Wagon Roller Coaster - Prime Pacific Ent. LLC
    15. Monkey Maze Glass House Alamo Amusements, Inc.


    GAMES

    1. Bottle Up Candice P. Anderson
    2. Goblets Candice P. Anderson
    3. Goblets Candice P. Anderson
    4. Long Range Basketball Oren Concessions LLC 
    5. Long Range Basketball Oren Concessions LLC 
    6. Ring-A-Bottle Trejo Concessions 
    7. Whopper Water Race Cassata Concessions 
    8. Shoot Out The Star Midwest Concessions, Inc.
    9. Roll Down Potopas Concessions, Inc.
    10. Star Dart Diversified Amusements, Inc.
    11. Mini Basketball Oren Concessions LLC
    12. Ring-A-Bottle JBS Concessions 
    13. Milk Cans Potopas Concessions, Inc. 
    14. Rising Waters Water Race Cassata Concessions 
    15. Balloon Pop Water Race Thornberry Concessions 





    CLICK HERE to view the official Minnesota State Fair Photo Gallery
  • Maryland State Fair Attendance up 20% over 2016
    9/19/2017
    The 2017 Maryland State Fair set the record for third-best attendance ever. The Maryland State Fair team attributes much of their attendance-based success to the new "Let Summer Be Summer" campaign led by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot. This campaign mandated that schools return after Labor Day: allowing Maryland families to spend their last week of summer at the Maryland State Fair which runs through Labor Day. "Despite two days of rain, our Fair attendance report shows a 20 percent increase since last year with 555,841 guests and exhibitors who graced our grounds during 12 days of the Maryland State Fair, the third best attendance on record," says Maryland State Fair Assistant General Manager, Becky Brashear.

    Admission into the Maryland State Fair is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors (62 and over), $3 for children (6-11), and children 5 and under are free. Admission does not include ride tickets but the Maryland State Fair in conjunction with Deggeller Attractions, provided several advanced sale ride ticket discount opportunities. Advanced admission, rides, and food tickets were available to be purchased no later than August 18th. Fair guests could "fare better" by purchasing a $100 minimum of any combination of admission tickets, ride wristbands, or food coupons. The Maryland State Fair also offered a Preview Night with "RIDEMANIA" on Thursday, August 24th from 5pm-11pm. Fairgoers could purchase an admission and ride wristband for $20 or a walk around admission ticket for $1. $25 unlimited ride wristbands were available Monday-Thursday of the fair and $27 wristbands were available on Labor Day. Weekend wristbands could be purchased in advance only. $5 off ride all rides wristband coupons were sold at Food Lion.

    In addition to the carnival midway provided by Deggeller Attractions, the Maryland State Fair provided lots of entertainment for families and guests to enjoy. On the first weekend of the fair, two concerts took place at the infield of the Maryland State Fair racetrack. Rock band Halestorm took the stage on Friday, August 25th. Tickets were $40 for festival standing admission and $50 for pit standing admission. On Saturday, August 26th, Disney star Sabrina Carpenter was the headline act and Youtube star Alex Aiono opened for her. Again, tickets were $40 for standing general admission and $50 for pit standing admission. 

    This year, the fair also featured the Swifty Swine Racing and Swimming Pig Show everyday throughout the fair. Shows took place five times per day: 12:30pm, 2:30pm, 4:30 pm, 6:30pm, and 8:00pm. Another unique opportunity for family entertainment at the 2017 Maryland State Fair is thoroughbred horse racing with wagering. For 2017's fair, there were 7 days of racing with purses of $185,000 daily, up more than 16% from 2016. This year, the meet had an added money event: the $75,000 guaranteed (plus $25,000 for Maryland-Bred/Maryland-Sired) Coalition Stakes for 3 year olds and up going 6 1/2 furlongs, with an additional $10,000 bonus to the winner if it is a Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic Sale graduate. The stakes are a reflection of cooperation between the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, the Maryland State Fair and Agricultural Society, and the Fasig-Tipton Sales Company. " This cooperative effort between all the parties involved in this race meet is a reflection of the continued team spirit in Maryland that has been such a huge factor in the renaissance of Maryland's  thoroughbred industry is currently enjoying. It's all part of making racing in Maryland great again. We are all really excited about the upcoming meet at Timonium," says Andy Cashman, General Manager of the Maryland State Fair. Races took place August 25th-Sepetember 4th.

    The Maryland State Fair also hosted the state championship of amateur arm wrestling on Saturday, September 2nd on the Carolina Carport Free Stage. All competitors who won a match received national rankings and local bragging rights. All competitors that reach the quarter-finals received special seeding into the Grand Finale at the Arizona State Fair in October. There were 5 men's divisions: Featherweight (under 144), Lightweight (145-169), Middleweight (170-193), Light Heavyweight (194-219), and Heavyweight (220 and above). There were 2 women's classes: lightweight (144 and under), and open division (above 145).

    Educational opportunities to learn more about agriculture are a big part of the Maryland State Fair. The Innovation Station...STEM Growing With You featured The Butterfly Encounter, The Agriculture Planetarium, and a Ethanol Remote Car Race Track. Another great opportunity for fairgoers to learn about agriculture is the U-Learn Farm which features a variety of fun and educational hands-on activities and exhibits such as a reading nook, and a Q&A session with local farmers. The fair also featured a birthing center, giving fair guests the opportunity to watch the births of calves and piglets.

    The 2017 Maryland State Fair Livestock Sale was a special one. Four 4-Hers shared some of the proceeds of their livestock sales with the Kaisy Knott medical fund; Daisy Knott is a fellow 4-H member who is fighting childhood cancer. Kaylie Shelton sold her 1364 pound Grand Champion Market Steer for $15,004; Mickinzi Ferguson sold her 284 pound Grand Champion Market Hog for $3,976; Tate Bittner sold his 74 pound Grand Champion Market Goat for $800 and his 139 pound Grand Champion Market Lamb for $1,399. 

    One of the best parts of the state fair is the food! The Maryland State Fair was the site of a new world record. Goetze's Candy Company announced that they would be setting an all new world's record at the Maryland State Fair with the largest Cow Tales ever recorded. Their goal was to create a Cow Tales that measured approximately 10 feet in length. The giant candy was featured the front of the Bulk Candy Store inside the Exhibition Hall. Pieces of the record setting Cow Tales were sold the last few days of the fair with all proceeds going to the Maryland State Fair Scholarship Fund.

    The Maryland Foods Pavilion featured pulled pork sundaes, fried green tomatoes, and other Maryland favorites back by popular demand. Fair guests could watch daily cooking demonstrations and delicious samples of fresh popped kettle corn in the display area. "The Maryland Foods Pavilion has been one of the greatest successes. Hundreds of people have told me that it is the main attraction that keeps them coming back to the Maryland State Fair. And, it is always their first stop for a great meal," says Chairman Stan Dabkowski. 

  • 150th Nebraska State Fair Reaches New Highs
    9/15/2017
    The 2017 Nebraska State Fair saw a 5% attendance increase from 2016; 361,107 people visited the fair in 2016 and 379,108 people came to the fair in 2017. 

    According to Nebraska State Fair General Manager, Joseph McDermott, the 2017 state fair was focused on celebrating the 150th birthday of the state of Nebraska. Guests at the Nebraska State Fair enjoyed plenty of food, fun, and entertainment making it one of the best Nebraska State Fairs yet. 

    Regular, adult admission into the Nebraska State fair is $12 per person and children are $3 a person. The fair also offers a season pass gate admission for $55: a ticket that allows one person one entry for all 11 days of the fair. 

    There were also several admission special days where fair guests could come to the Nebraska State Fair at a discounted rate. On Monday, August 28th and Wednesday, August 30th, adult gate admission was $5. The fair also featured Two Dollar Tuesday on August 29th; on that day, adult and gate admission was $2 and rides were $2 each.  Lastly, $3 Thursday on August 31st permitted adults and children to enter the fair for just $3. Providing a season pass for admission and discounted rates throughout the weekdays of the fair made attending the Nebraska State Fair more affordable for families, helping increase attendance.

    The first weekend of the 2017 Nebraska State Fair had two, large outdoor concerts. The opening weekend concerts featured Brad Paisley and Pentatonix. 

    According to McDermott, both concerts were a huge success; "Our outdoor concert venue holds about 13,000 people and Pentatonix sold just about 13,000 tickets," says McDermott. After opening weekend, the concerts move to the indoor venue. Performers such as King And Country, Lynard Skynyrd, Joan Jett, and Cole Swindell drew big crowds and kept the energy consistent throughout the fair. Tickets are required for the MainStage concerts and all groups featured this year sold very well according to McDermott. 

    In addition to main stage concerts, the Nebraska State Fair featured a draft horse hitch show on August 25th, 26th, and 27th as well as a draft horse pull on September 1st. Tickets tot he horse hitch/pull cost $5 per person. There were several grounds acts for families to enjoy free with admission at this year's fair. A BMX freestyle stunt show, Dan Dan the Farmer Man, racing pigs, the Great American Duck Races, and Sinbad High Dive Show were just a few of the acts guests could enjoy on the fairgrounds. When asked how the fair decides which entertainment acts to book each year, McDermott says, "We try to mix it up. Dan Dan the Farmer Man, the duck races, and the high dive show are new but there are some favorites we bring back from year to year."

    Wade Shows provides the carnival midway for the Nebraska State Fair. This year, Wade Shows brought a great variety of rides from super spectacular attractions to family rides for the whole family. Gary Zaitshik, Wade Shows' Chief Operating Officer, felt that this was a great year for both Wade Shows and the Nebraska State Fair in general. "We had really nice weather throughout the fair with the exception of one storm that rolled through the fairgrounds in the middle of the night," says Zaitshik. 

    The wind speed of the storm caused the Wade Shows office top to come off and blew down some ride fencing and privacy screening put up by the Wade Shows team. Zaitshik and other members of the Wade Shows crew were able to take a few hours and reset the equipment to where it needed to be before the fair even opened. 

    Some of the more popular attractions provided by Wade Shows were the Super Cyclone roller coaster, the Street Fighter 360, and the Giant Ferris Wheel. "The Giant Wheel was very popular with families. It is in a great location and anyone riding it can see most of the fairgrounds while on the wheel and get a really cool lay of the land," says Zaitshik. 

    The Sky Tram was also popular with Nebraska State Fair guests. This year, Wade Shows featured a ride all day wristband exclusively for the sky tram for just $10. According to Zaitshik, this was a successful promotion and something they will definitely consider continuing in the future. 

    Zaitshik also mentioned that Wade Shows offers Mega Passes and unlimited ride wristbands at a discounted rate in advance of the fair. The advanced sales (especially the Mega Pass) are very popular with customers and the advance sale seems to increase year to year according to Zaitshik. "The Nebraska State Fair does a great job; there is plenty to see and do here. We have a great partnership with Joseph McDermott and his team we work very well together and as The Nebraska State Fair grows, Wade Shows grows with it," says Zaitshik.

    4-H and FFA groups have a strong presence at the Nebraska State Fair. In fact, 4-H and FFA have their own building on the fairgrounds which features domestic exhibits for competitions in fine arts, foods, needlework, photography, and many more. 

    "Livestock dominates the second weekend of the fair," says McDermott. However, livestock was certainly pervasive throughout the entire fair. Opening weekend featured draft horses, dairy cattle, sheep, boer goats, llamas, alpacas, Texas Longhorns, dairy goats, and open class poultry and waterfowl in the fair's new livestock barns. 

    Part of the livestock sections included informational signs and displays for guests to learn more about different cattle breeds, sheep, swine, and rabbits. The exhibits also featured Nebraska's largest steer and boar. A birthing pavilion gave guests the opportunity to view the birth of new animals at the fair and the milking parlor hosted milking demonstrations daily. 

    A unique feature in the livestock portion of the Nebraska State Fair are the cattle dog performances which took place on Monday and Tuesday of the fair. The performing dogs are trained to work cattle on a ranch. Dogs compete against one another for prizes and The Nebraska State Fair has become the premier Cattle Dog Trial in the country. Labor Day Weekend was particularly busy for the livestock areas of the fair. 4-H and FFA competitions in beef, sheep, swine, goats, poultry, and rabbits took place that weekend.

    McDermott says that a majority of the fair's advertising is digital these days. "We moved from Lincoln to Grand Island 8 years ago and make sure we continue to advertise to the entire state," says McDermott. The digital advertising is housed in a massive social media campaign mainly on Facebook and Twitter. The fair keeps people updated through posts and also hosts contests to give away admission and concert tickets to people who enter. In addition to digital advertising, the Nebraska State Fair invests in tv, radio, and some newspaper advertising. 

    The Nebraska State Fair generates about 50% of their budget from fair revenues and the other 50% comes from proceeds received from the Nebraska lottery. 

    McDermott, having been in his position for 9 years relies on his full-time staff of 12 people and his team of 800-1000 volunteers who give about 12,000 hours of their time to make the Nebraska State Fair a success. "We focus on good value and customer service. These two things are very critical to a good fair experience and our volunteer program does a great job of providing that to our customers," says McDermott.

  • Building Improvements, Layout Changes and a Social Media Booth Highlight Mississippi Valley Fair
    9/13/2017
    For his first Mississippi Valley Fair as general manager, Shawn Loter implemented a few seemingly small but very significant changes to the fair, including facelifts to all the buildings and fairgrounds, repositioning key tents and creating a special social media center that engaged fairgoers.

    The initiatives created a curiosity among the community, which may have helped boost attendance. But the driving goal was to fuse new life into the fair as well as year-round business for the fairgrounds.  " We changed a lot of things, just to freshen up the fair, because people had been seeing the same thing for the last 10 years," he said. "I think some people came just to see what we were doing. But we are doing a good business year-round and we are growing that business. We rent out buildings all year, with flea markets, weekly bingo games."

    Fairground Upgrades 
    The upgrade program included remodeling the 100-year old, 50-foot twin, archway towers that are the main gate of the fairgrounds, painting and other upgrades to every one of the 15 buildings on the grounds, ranging from exhibition facilities to cattle barns.  New landscaping as well as asphalt and other street work was completed throughout the grounds. 

    Upgrades to the fairgrounds may help both the fair and the year-round value of the property, but the makeover didn't stop there. Loter redesigned the layout of the fair by repositioning tents and canopies for the actual event. The tents were mainly entertainment tents, ranging from regional and local bands to a range of grounds acts, including a tiger and elephant shows, a Lumber Jack show and a puppet show. 

    Repositioning the tents accomplished several objectives, especially the sense of change for change sake, as least as when it comes to appearance. "You cannot be doing the same thing year in and year out; people get used to it and don't want to come back. You want to keep things different."

    Loter also added educational exhibitions and attractions, ranging from new agricultural education programs to a robotics demonstration.

    Repositioning the tents improved pedestrian traffic flow, bringing attention and attendees to different areas of the fair, benefitting other exhibits and concessionaires. Loter also added a few new grounds acts - such as the lumberjack show -- which created fairgoer excitement. "I added a bunch of new acts, and my goal is to change the acts. Some acts will stay, people will always come for certain shows, but others we need to change them, which keeps people interested." 

    Social Media Booth 
    Another new addition by Loter for his freshmen year at the helm of this Iowa tradition was an innovative combination of the actual fairgrounds with the virtual world of social media. Social media of course is crucial to the fair's marketing program, but the Social Media Booth was an interactive center located on the grounds.  Where many fairs conduct contests on Facebook and other social media platforms, Loter brought that contest promotion to the grounds with the Social media Booth, which hosted different contests -   participants could win everything from tickets to meet & greets with the fair's headliners to the iconic fair food staple, corn dogs. 

    Winners were decided by the spin of a wheel located at the booth throughout the day, each contest being promoted on Facebook, the actual spin of the wheel covered on Facebook live. Once at the booth, contestants became followers on Facebook, as well as Twitter and Instagram. The ongoing contests at the Social Media Booth increased the fair's social media followers by more than 15 percent. Not only did the Social Media Booth expand the marketing audience of the fair, it promoted things like a corn dog vendor in real time at the fair. "Anytime you can give away stuff you get more people," he said. 

    The Mississippi Valley Fair has an advertising budget of approximately $250,000, consistent with last year, said Loter. The bulk of the expenditure is towards TV and Radio. "One of our major papers jumped up their advertising rates by 40 percent," said Loter, leading to less print advertising and shifting those funds to digital media. The Mississippi Valley Fair has its own jingle, "American Way to Play," which has long been used as a soundtrack to its commercial advertising. 

    The fair also featured a corn dog eating contest, determining how fast 10 corn dogs could be eaten, for a prize of $500. The winning time was 5 minutes, 20 seconds resulting in  a tie and the winners split the prize money. 

    The fair averages about 40 food vendors, according to Loter, and its fair cuisine is generally traditional, which in addition to corn dogs, includes pizza, pull-pork sandwiches and turkey legs "turkey legs are the biggest sellers," he said. 

    The most popular new food vendors this year was a "new Mexican restaurant," he said. The most exciting new food time was a "wonder stick" ice cream cone," which he described as ice cream but "in a weird shaped cone." 

    Attendance Uptick
    Attendance at the fair was 295,000, about 4,000 more than last year. "The weather held up, it was very cool, which probably hurt beer sales,' he said. "Beer sells better when it's hot, but the weather was very comfortable. 
     
    Return visitors are key to the Mississippi Valley Fair's business strategy. The fair features a stellar line up of stars, which this year include Dustin Lynch, John Mellencamp, Randy Houser and Lynyrd Skynyrd, which due to a medical emergency, had to cancel days before their show. They were replaced by Vince Neil of Motley Crue. 

    The fair offers a once price admission deal - the Fun Card, where fairgoers can attend concerts each night of the six day fair. Fun Cards are priced at the bargain rate of $55, then a month before the fair, they jump to $60.

    Loter is committed to both headline entertainment and the fun card concept, but the challenges of rising costs and competition and other issues related to fair entertainment continue to bedevil the fair. 

    "The big names drag their feet in committing to the state," he said. "We are the only fair with the Fun Card, but we need a few big names to tie into marketing by December first or second, so people can give the Fun Cards as Christmas presents. We want to keep the Fun Card affordable, we set a budget and we are already looking for acts. But it is a little harder, and it can be difficult, and it really becomes a waiting game." 

    Evan's United Shows is the carnival company for the Mississippi Valley Fair, with a midway of about 30 rides. Loter said that the midway provider introduced a new Chicago Loop ride. However, in spite of the significant attendance increase, "the carnival was down this year, because of the incident in Ohio," said Loter, referring to the Fireball accident during the Ohio State Fair that resulted in a fatality. "That just scared people across the board, and I think they stayed away from the carnival because of it," he said. "I was interviewed about the safety of the rides at our fair constantly, so we got a lot of coverage and I was able to explain that we are a safe fair and all the precautions we take, but it hurt this year's midway."

    Loter is a 29-year veteran of the 98-year-old Mississippi State Fair, and prior to his promotion he held the position of Maintenance Manager. The fair conducted an executive search before selecting Loter, deciding that an internal move would serve the best interests of the fair.  Upon his announcement, the local press quoted Mile Vondran, board president, Mississippi Valley Fair Board: "Shawn has been a member of our fairgrounds family since the age of 13,''. "He truly loves the fair and all its heritage. He is an outstanding young man and the perfect person to take us past our century mark.''

    Loter said that for his first fair as general manager, "I made the transition smoothly. The biggest change is that instead of being responsible for the maintenance crew, I'm in charge of a few hundred people."

    The Mississippi Valley Fair is one of the biggest of the Midwest "county" fair and has a 100 year anniversary fair looming, further heightening expectations, but Loter is looking forward to even further changes for 2018. "We need more daytime activity to bring in the families. We are a night time fair, that's when we get our biggest crowds, and they're a night time crowd. We are working towards bringing in more families during the day." 

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2016 TOP 50 FAIRS
1. Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo - Houston, TX
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The Industry Buzz
Former Delaware State Fair Manager, Dennis Hazzard passes
MILFORD - On Sept. 3, 2017, Dennis S. Hazzard passed away at The Country Rest Home in Greenwood.

He was born on Nov. 25, 1941, in Milford to Jean and Walter Hazzard.

Dennis graduated from Milford High School in 1959 and began his radio broadcasting career at the local station, WTHD. He then went on to other radio stations including WAFL. Dennis later switched careers to become the Assistant General Manager at the Delaware State Fair. He occupied this position for several years before being appointed General Manager. He retired from this position in 2007.

He was a longtime member of the Board of Directors of the Delaware State Fair. He was also a member of the International Association of Fairs and Expos and the Maryland Association of Agricultural Fairs and Shows.

Dennis enjoyed listening to music, reading and watching movies, especially old movies. He also enjoyed going to Broadway shows and traveling. For several years he conducted bus tours to Nashville, Tenn. for the annual Fanfare.

Dennis is survived by his wife of 48 years, Vivian (nee Wilson); and his two children, Amy Slonacher and her husband Garrette, and Mark Hazzard and his wife Kim. He also leaves behind his beloved grandchildren, Nicholas, Tristan and Brendan Slonacher. Also surviving are brothers, Roy, Walter, Dean and Richard Hazzard; sister, Jill Cohee; and several nieces and nephews.
  Posted by Obituary on 9/11/2017
Minnesota State Fair Sets All Time Attendance Record
The 2017 Minnesota State Fair set record attendance with 1,997,320 people passing through the fairs turnstiles this year, surpassing the previous record of 1,943,719 set in 2016.  The fair broke single day attendance records on Monday, Aug. 28, with 144,504 visitors; Friday, Sept. 1, with 187,066 visitors; and Sunday, Sept. 3, with 242,759 visitors.

New to the fair was the Midway Sky Eye, the USA's largest portable giant wheel owned by Wood Entertainment and Wade Shows.  The new wheel rode over 124,958 passengers at the fair.
  Posted by Matt Cook on 9/8/2017
New York State Fair Sets Attendance Record
In 2016, the New York State Fair set an all time attendance record of 1,117,630 patrons through its gates.  In 2017, the fair shattered that record with an estimated attendance of over 1.3 million visitors.  During the 13 day run, the fair set three daily attendance records including a new record for the largest single-day attendance recorded at the fair.

Other Labor Day weekend State Fairs have yet to finalize their attendance numbers, although, entering their final day, Minnesota and Nebraska were on pace for record years as well.  
  Posted by Matt Cook on 9/4/2017
Happy World Shows Makes China Debut
Happy World Shows of Cedar, Park Texas begins it's Asian tour in Northern China.
It is scheduled to do 4 events in China within the next 10 months. It will then travel on to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and The Philippines.

The Bodecker Group is filming daily for Space Coast Pictures which is producing the adventure for a US reality TV show.

  Posted by Press Release on 9/1/2017
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
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