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  • Strates Shows celebrates 91st year on the road
    10/20/2014
    WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. --- This year has proven to be a season of change for the James E. Strates Shows, the only carnival still moving equipment by railroad.

    The Orlando, Fla. company, in the midst of its 91st year of operation, moves by rail less than half the time now over the course of its seven-month season. The biggest change is its employees no longer sleep in rail cars due to increased insurance costs, said Jim Strates, the carnival's president.

    The increase in those rates revolved around the business classification tied to Strates' operation. CSX, one of three railroad companies the carnival uses to transport rides, considered the show to be strictly in the business of moving passengers, which it is not, according to Strates.

    "We are not making money moving people," he said. "CSX asked for higher insurance limits and because we are using the railroad less overall, we decided to forgo bringing out the coach cars this year." 

    As it stands now, Strates uses fewer than 45 rail cars to move equipment, down from about 60 over past years. The carnival also uses trucks to haul equipment over the road, something it has always done, he said.

    This year, the show's workers sleep in traditional bunkhouses, saving the carnival $70,000 to $80,000 it would have paid the railroad in additional insurance premiums.

    To this point, it is a temporary move and could change again next year depending on insurance costs, Strates said.

    In addition to CSX, Strates Shows uses Norfolk Southern for some of its North Carolina and Georgia dates, including the Dixie Classic Fair here in Winston-Salem. Up north, the carnival travels with Conrail, which is jointly owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern.

    The show's principals still feel traveling by rail is the most economical way to move long distances with lots of equipment. The downside are the fixed costs. Traveling shorter distances doesn't make it any less expensive for the show and it still takes time to load and unload rides, Strates said.

    "If you're going long distances, you can overcome those fixed expenses pretty fast and you know where your equipment is at all times," he said. Traveling from Florida to New York state, no one can do it cheaper and more efficiently. No blown tires. Rail wheels last forever. Rail still has its niche."

    By now, most in the industry are aware that Strates did not play the New York State Fair in Syracuse after an impressive run of more than 70 years playing the spot. Wade Shows took over the fair in 2014 after winning the bid through an RFP process.

    To fill the void in late August through Labor Day, Strates booked some equipment with Harlan Bast in Fayetteville, N.C., in addition to playing the Lee Regional Fair in Sanford, N.C., a date it picked up last year, Strates said.

    Overall, the weather's been good for most of the season with the exception of snow in April during the Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Fair, he said.

    This year's Erie County (N.Y.) Fair marked Strates' 90th appearance at that event. It was also the fair's 175th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, officials decided to run free rides for the first 90 minutes of midway operations on Heritage Day, Aug. 14.

    The promotion got the crowd out early on a Thursday and many families spent the entire day at the fair, resulting in the carnival setting a few records after the regular prices kicked in later on, Strates said.

    "It was out-of-the-box [thinking] but every once in awhile you have to do something like that," he said. "Nothing on our end indicated it was a bad move."

    Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda performed at the fair as well as part of the 175th celebration.

    The State Fair Meadowlands, held in the parking lots surrounding MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL's New York Jets and Giants, proved to be a good date, Strates said. It ran for 17 days from June 20 through July 6. Amusements of America had the majority of rides there, he said.

    In addition, the carnival's run at the Orange County Fair in Middletown, N.Y. was supported by a new race track as fair manager Mike Gurda uses motorsports, specifically sprint car racing, as an added attraction.

    Racing is the primary attraction at Daytona International Speedway, where Strates set up about four rides in the infield during the Rolex 24, a 24-hour sports car event. It's held in late January, about a month before the Daytona 500. The show has booked it as a soft opening for about 10 yars.

    The carnival provides a Ferris wheel, Sky Flyer and some kiddie rides to essentially "enhance the skyline with lots of flashing lights" to give the event a festive feel, Strates said.

    At the Dixie Classic Fair, an event played by Strates since the early 1960s, the show set up 63 rides and attractions, including the Wave Swinger, a beautiful German piece. The scenery was repainted last year on a ride that dates to the early 1970s.

    The piece can last for many more years "as long as you don't let corrosion ruin it," he said. "The hydraulics wear out but as long as the structure is solid you have nothing to worry about. That's a hallmark of German equipment. They're built heavier and are more durable, like the old Mack Himalaya."

    In Winston-Salem, the carnival booked side show operator Jack Constantin. He rented 120 feet of midway space featuring oddities such as the World's Smallest Woman, Snake Child and Mule Face.

    This was the fourth time this season Strates carried the side shows. "After they've played the same route for awhile, you have to switch up," Strates said. "Otherwise, it takes the edge off their product. It's a throwback to yesteryear."

    The final dates of the season include the Georgia-Carolina State Fair in Augusta, Ga., the Southwest Georgia Regional Fair and the North Florida Fair in Tallahassee. Then it's on to Orlando for a Christmas event before getting off the road until Daytona in January, he said.





    Strate's Shows new privacy screens





    Wave Swinger





  • Greeley Stampede: Enters Rodeo Hall of Fame with Upbeat Fair
    10/17/2014
    Cooperative weather, community partnerships and rodeo recognition added up to a successful Greeley Stampede - The World's Largest 4th of July Rodeo and Western Celebration!" -  held June 26-July 6 in Greeley, Colo. Total attendance was 940,000, according to Anthea Dreisbach, General Manager, with revenue and other statistics all securely on the incline.

    "We had an amazing rodeo, a lot of growth and record breaking days," said Dreisbach. " It was a great year all-around; concerts were up, rodeos, demo derby, bull fighting and bull riding and the carnival all saw increases."

    The 2014 Greeley Stampede was the second year at the helm for Dreisbach, previously having held a CEO position at the New Mexico State Fair & Rodeo. Her basic strategy for her sophomore effort was to "build on what was already here."

    Get Western
    Much of that strategy  required a deeper knowledge of exactly who the Greeley Stampede attendees are. "We're targeting our market a lot better," she said. "This is a community event and we are learning how to best serve the community, bringing in the best possible entertainment. We better understand who we are marketing to, our community and we get a lot of community support."

    This cultivating your own backyard methodology seemed to work in 2014. According to Andy Segal, Media and Communications Manager, preliminary figures indicate that revenues were "up this year by more than 30 percent" compared to 2013. He said, "In 2012 we had good year, we had about a 9 percent increase in 2013 from 2012."

    The Greeley Stampede Community consists mainly of the cowboy, rodeo and western heritage enthusiast. Perhaps no clearer indicator of this theme is the tagline of the event - "Get Western." 

    "Our mission is to celebrate our Western heritage," said Dreisbach.

    Living Museum
    This year, admission to the fair included admission to the Centennial Village Museum, directly adjacent to the fairgrounds. According to Dreisbach, the  new agreement with the Centennial Village Museum was made through the City of Greeley, with the intent of bolstering and promoting the history and culture of the western United States.  The Centennial Village is an 8-acre Living History museum that "allows visitors to experience Northeastern Colorado as it was over 100 years ago," says its website and includes historic structures, heirloom animals, and lush historic gardens.

    The Centennial Village became uniquely part of the Greeley Stampede - the fair's main attraction is the Rodeo, a competitive, professional sport resonating with the appreciation and nostalgia for the pioneer past of the United Sates. The living history experience - which includes attractions such as Tomahawk throwing, a traditional sheriff/outlaw "show down" and a tree trunk carver - provided an educational component that only enhances the rodeo and cultural celebration inherent to the mission of the Greeley Stampede.

    "We were able to add more value to our event with the Centennial Village this year," said Dreisbach.

    Hall of Famer
    In the weeks preceding the Greeley Stampede, significant national recognition provided added promotion when it was announced that the Greeley Stampede Rodeo Committee had been voted into the Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame.

    The Greeley Stampede is one of the last of the largest outdoor rodeos on the PRCA circuit - and is considered the biggest Fourth of July Rodeo - a day known as Cowboy Christmas - in the country. The official induction ceremony took place August 9 at the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame Museum in Colorado Springs. The Greeley Stampede was one of only four committees (Clovis Rodeo, Snake River Stampede, and Rowell Ranch Pro Rodeo) inducted this year.  "The 2014 Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame Committee Induction is an unparalleled tribute to all Stampede volunteers throughout the years," said James Herman, Greeley Stampede Rodeo Chairman. "It is an achievement which is not dominated by the accomplishments of one committee but shared by the successes of every volunteer and staff member since 1922."

    "Rodeo is definitely growing in popularity," said Dreisbach. "You see more of it on television than you used to. People are getting back to their roots and Rodeo is a family sport. There is a sense of comradery among the riders that you don't see in other activities and the fans really appreciate that."

    She added, "we are one of the top 25 rodeos in the country, and the summer is the busiest time of the year. I am seeing more and more people coming out. The fact that we as an organization were inducted into the hall brought us a lot of community pride. We were able to promote that fact as well."

    Marketing Mix
    The Greeley Stampede is non-profit organization, with a $1.5 million budget and according to Segal, the marketing budget was $350,000, comparable to the 2013 marketing expenditure. The mix is surprisingly traditional for this year "We cover all media sources but radio is our largest buy, TV is second, print is third, web ads/social media is fourth," Segal said, adding that billboards accounted for the  smallest line item budget.

    However, next year, the marketing purchases will likely undergo a drastic re-appropriation. "This year my goal was to accumulate data through a survey, to have a better idea what media was being utilized by our customers and even those that don't attend the event," Segal said. "The survey will be compiled this fall which will impact the 2015 Marketing plan.  However, during the 2014 plan I created defined advertising periods based on promotions, ticket prices and  we utilized the media that could deliver the best bang for my buck. Social and web advertising are the easiest and most accurately tracked. I mention our website and social media on all our marketing and advertising."

    He added, "it is no surprise that newspaper readership and AM radio are on the decline, but a majority of our core customer base still reads newspapers and listens to AM radio.  The percentage of my budget dedicated to newspaper print ads has declined while I've increased my digital budget. We had over a 20 percent increase in [Facebook] likes during the 2014 event, bringing our likes to almost 15,400."

     The most popular promotions, according to Segal, were First Responders Day, who received free park admission, and a seat at the rodeo; Kids and Community Day - 2 for 1 admission, rodeo tickets and carnival wristbands - Wild West Wednesday - those in cowboy garb received a discounted admission; Military Day, where military members and veterans received park admission, and a seat at the rodeo. A new midway promotion was a 4 day pass (Monday - Thursday only) for $44 - Daily wristbands normally go for $30 per day.

    Revenue Up
    The Midway provider at the Greeley Stampede was Carnival Americana, which included a new ride, The Vertigo. According to Segal, "Midway revenue was up from the previous year by almost 116 percent,".

    The concert series at the fair included: Jake Owen, Three Days Grace, Billy Currington, Martina McBride, and Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy. "Our talent buyers took their time to get great acts," said Dreisbach. "I think it is still a seller's market this year, there are a lot of events to play. But the Greeley Stampede has become more established, we have to find talent in keeping with our mission."

    The Greeley Stampede features 40 food vendors and tends to shy away from the more flamboyantly inventive fair cuisine items. "We stick mostly the traditional fare," said Dreisbach. "We try to keep a variety and avoid repeats of vendors serving the same food." German Sausage and beef brisket sandwiches remained the perennial favorites, she added.

    By reinforcing the western themes and traditions that were its reason for being when it was first held in 1922, the Greeley Stampede held a successful event this summer. "2014 did exceed expectations," said Segal.  "Almost every event was 10 to 20 percent above last year. Vendors renewed with glowing reviews and visitor comments were how great the park looked and excited about all the different events."

     And while some of those increases can also be signs of an improving economy in Colorado, the appeal of traditional values embodied in a classic rodeo and fair may be stronger than ever. "The economy is recovering and turning back up," said Dreisbach. "But people want to spend their time with their families, they are investing in that time, and the Stampede is affordable and family friendly." 
  • West Market Helps Boost Minnesota State Fair to Record Attendance
    10/15/2014
    A big fair got bigger this year. Record attendance and two record setting days meant that the 2014 Minnesota State Fair ended on a remarkably positive note. 

    The Minnesota Sate Fair attendance reached 1,824,830 - marking the first time the Land of 10,000 Lakes main summer event topped 1.8 million; 2009 was the previous record year, with 1,790,497. This year's fair left no doubt that its nickname - Minnesota's Great Get Together - is well earned. Minnesota has a population of more than 5 million, which means that more than a third of the population of the state attends its fair. The Minnesota State Fair is considered the second largest state fair in the country - according to Carnivalwarehouse.com's annual Top 50 fair list.  But the top fair, the Texas State Fair runs twice as long.

    In addition, two daily attendance records were set - Tuesday, Aug. 26 with 133,595 attendees, and on Saturday, Aug. 30, 252,092 visitors. The weather cooperated - low humidity, only brief rain - for the 12 days of the fair. West End Market, a renovated and expanded plaza, opened after two years of planning and anticipation - and an improving Minnesota economy, a star-studded line-up of concert headliners and a more focused marketing strategy all supplemented the optimal weather.

    Fair Fundamentals 
    Last year, the fair was negatively impacted by a heat wave - "we had a six bad days, and when temperatures are so hot they don't stay as long, and who can blame them and a lot people just don't want to drive to the fair," said Jerry Hammer, Executive Vice President & General Manager, Minnesota State Fair. Last year at the 123rd Annual Convention of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE), Hammer was officially inducted the IAFE Hall of Fame.

     Lingering cabin fever may also have been a factor.This winter was cold and snowy - miserable, even by Minnesota's standards - which increased anticipation for this year's fair. "This one fair is the big Daddy of Minnesota events," said Hammer. "We get through these winters, and want to have a big party, and we know what is around the corner."

    Aside from good weather and the shared feeling that one of the best ways to celebrate summer is at a state fair, the secret to success for the Minnesota State Fair may be no secret at all. Hammer said that fair success "can be reduced to three fundamentals: give people too much to do, make it easy to get here and keep it affordable."

    That time-tested truism might be summed up as "giving people value, but value doesn't mean cheap, it means a good return for what you are paying," he said. "If you treat people right, they repeat their visit, they return."
     
    Affordability and value are the keys - $13 admission includes parking and Hammer points out that even the free acts offered have a significant fan base. "We have music acts that people come to town to see. Some them play clubs for $30 - $40," he said.

    Hammer sums up the appeal of the Minnesota state with an anecdote. On the last day of the fair, he noticed a young man, somebody who was not the stereotypical fair demographic. "He was walking around and he said that 'it was hard to leave this place.' There is something about this fair that goes beyond other fairs. It is a combination of things that are all in one place. We have the largest music festival in Minnesota, and every two days we have new entertainment. For six days, we have completely changed all our free entertainment."

    Just as important as exciting entertainment, quality agricultural exhibits and contests, fun foods and thrilling midway, is attention to fairgoer comfort. "There's a whole lot of truth to the saying a fair is only as good as your bathroom," said Hammer. The fair has invested in renovating restroom facilities - Hammer said there are very few Porto-johns - or building bathrooms. Minnesota State Fair restrooms have gotten high marks by local internet sources - a twitter thread @MNSTATEFAIR actually ranked the fair's facilities (a tweet proclaimed: "Best bathroom at the #mnstatefair : Minnesota Farmer's Union. You heard it here". 

    For Hammer, "People comment on them as well as how clean the grounds are. Cleanliness is an important part of the experience."

    West End Market
    The most obvious new highlight of the 2014 Minnesota State Fair was the debut of the $15 million "West End Market," a massive construction project that completely overhauled an under-utilized section of the State Fairgrounds by creating an open-air plaza with a new amphitheater, bazaar-style merchant section, a transit hub and several food emporiums, including a renovated Minnesota State Fair History & Heritage Center, designed and curated by the Minnesota State Historical Society, which added prestige to this new exhibition. "The society being involved made sure the new history and heritage center was done right," said Hammer. 

    According to Hammer, the original area was constructed as part of the fair in 1964, and named the Young American Center, a mid-20th century attempt to make the fair relevant to the burgeoning teen market; in the 1970s it was recast as the Heritage Center, to coincide with the Bicentennial. The West Market also incorporated the new Transit Hub - which utilized a restored, 80-year-old "arch" - from a North St. Paul train depot, the main streetcar entrance to the Fair from 1933 to 1964. Twin City busses - the fair's website claims half of all attendees take mass transit - as well as the fair's Park & Ride shuttle busses that take attendees back and forth from the remote parking lots - uses the new Transport Hub. "The Heritage Center had become ramshackle and it was in a far-off section of the fair," said Hammer. "With the Transit Hub we turned it into a major entrance to the fair."

    During the past 16 years, the fair has invested $140 million in facility and grounds upgrades, and the West End Market, "is the last of our big projects," he said. 

    In keeping with Hammer's philosophy of giving fairgoers "too much to do," the design of the West End Market complimented existing fair components, instead of competing with them by giving fairgoers more of the same. "We had food items there like Lobster Roll and Cajun meatloaf that are different than the deep fried fair foods of other vendors," said Hammer. "The fair is out-sized, and it's not just one thing. The West End Market adds to what we offer, it doesn't detract from what we already have." 

    Fair Cuisine
    Overall per capita spending was up, although Hammer said most of the final numbers are not in. However, food concessions increased over last year, generating about $30 million this year. The 2014 Minnesota State Fair featured 300 food vendors, serving nearly 500 different dishes. The 2014 fair featured 28 new foods, including the Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Leg, Beer Gelato, Bison Dog, Blue Cheese & Corn Fritz, Breakfast Juicy LuLu, Caramel Apple Ice Cream, Caribbean-Style Lobster Roll,Chicken in the Waffle, Pizza Tots, Pretzel Curds, Prime Rib Taco, Rustic Stuffed Scone, Schnitzel Strips, Shrimp Dog, and SnoRibbons. Vendors served up nearly 500 different types of food, more than 70 were on-a-stick. While the fair offers traditional fair cuisine, like corn dogs, the more extravagant fried items simply do not go over well. "The more wild stuff, like fried gummy bears, never went over well here," he said.

    Independent Midway
    The Minnesota State Fair has been an independent midway - the Mighty Midway - since 1995, featuring 61 rides - 30 Adult/31 in the Kidway - plus 47 games, and Jim Sinclair, Deputy General Manager, whose main responsibility is midway management, contracted with 26 different rides and a dozen game vendors. The fair has a policy that a midway vendor cannot provide both games and rides, it has to be either or. The Mighty Midway's new rides included Crazy Dance, Hurricane, Rock It and Stinger; Kidway's new rides were Hog Rally, Mini Indy Bumper Cars, Monster Truck, and the Wave Swinger.

    The Minnesota State Fair midway revenue was up 23 percent, although some of this notable uptick can be attribute to the increase in individual ticket prices going up from 75 cents to $1.00 - most rides take 5-6 tickets and the midway uses a common ticket: any ticket is good for either games or rides (the Minnesota State Fair does not offer wristbands). 

    "A portion of the revenue increase was due to a ticket price adjustment, as well as the fact attendance increased," said Sinclair. 

    As they say in real estate, location also made a difference. Not that the midway moved, but with the new West End Market and its transit hub, which is directly adjacent to the midway, attendee traffic suddenly swelled this summer in this area. In addition, the fair improved the ticket box system and other technology a modern day midway require. "We keep track of our customer's habits, and we have a higher use of credit cards," said Sinclair. "The public is much more sophisticated, they want friendliness, cleanliness, quality and value. They want a family environment." 

    The common ticket for both games and rides is one of the hallmarks of the Minnesota State Fair's midway. While games may not be as popular among fairgoers in recent times, Sinclair has targeted this midway segment. "We enforce a proper stock through, make sure all the prizes are clearly labeled so there's no bait or switch, we monitor the games daily during the fair," said Sinclair. Fair management developed a list of 25 Bullet Points that clearly outline what is expected at the games, specifying such as things as the number of trade-ups (six), and eliminating double wins. "The public has to have the perception they can win at the games."

    With the fair achieving record attendance, midway ridership and revenue being up is not surprising. This year's success also reinforced the independent format of the midway. 

    "An independent midway is more work for the fair, and it has to be right for the particular situation," said Sinclair. "There's more risk, but there is greater reward. Our success does not spell the end of organized, single provider midways. The fair has to have resources for an independent midway, and we've able to reinvest, and assemble the human resources for the midway. We are committed to the vision."

    The 2014 ride gross was $3,683,411.35, up $768,813.32 (+26.4%) over 2013.  The game gross in 2014 was $2,712,449.48, up $434,693.96 (+19.1%) over 2013.

    The top 15 rides and games were as follows:

    RIDES

    1. Crazy Mouse Spinning Roller Coaster - S.J. Entertainment
    2. Sky Flyer - Reithoffer Equipment Co., Inc.
    3. Gondola Wheel - Playworld Unlimited
    4. Hurricane - Showtime Rides, Inc.
    5. Starship 3000 - Laser Fair, Inc.
    6. Techno Power - Wood Entertainment Co., Inc.
    7. Raiders - Rose's Rides, LLC
    8. Rock It - State Fair Services, Inc.
    9. Stinger - Reithoffer Equipment Co., Inc.
    10. Arabian Daze - Fun Attractions LLC
    11. Puppy Express - Prime Pacific Ent., LLC
    12. Magnum - Wood Entertainment Co., Inc.
    13. Wave Swinger - Myers International Midways, Inc.
    14. Alpine Bobs - Blake's Concessions
    15. Kite Flyer - Alamo Amusements, Inc.

    GAMES

    1. Bottle Up - Candice P. Anderson
    2. Goblets - Candice P. Anderson
    3. Whopper Water Race - Cassata Concessions
    4. Goblets - Candice P. Anderson
    5. Rising Waters Water Race - Cassata Concessions
    6. Star Dart - Diversified Amusements, Inc.
    7. Ring-A-Bottle - JBS Concessions
    8. Shoot Out The Star - Midwest Concessions, Inc.
    9. Fish-A-Rama - Gary Oren Concessions
    10. Long Range Basketball - Gary Oren Concessions
    11. Skeeball - Magel Concessions
    12. Top Glo Water Race - Cassata Concessions
    13. Gun Ball - Kimo's Concessions
    14. Long Range Basketball - Gary Oren Concessions
    15. Break-A-Plate - Trejo Concessions


     
    Four Sell Outs
    According to Hammer, the concerts this year featured four sell out (13,000) shows - Toby Keith with special guest Colt Ford, Kid Rock with special guest Blackberry Smoke, Tim McGraw with special guest Ryan Kinder, and Journey with special guest Joan Jett & The Blackhearts were sold-out shows. About 9,000 turned out for the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, a similarly sized audience came to Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, the Minnesota-based NPR radio show, which was broadcasted live; it was a return to the fair after several years, conducted in conjunction with the program's 40th anniversary tour. 
    "This year was more of a buyer's market than last year," said Hammer. "It was a tougher last year, where a lot more acts were doing the big music festivals. You always book the best acts you can. The Minnesota State Fair is the biggest summer music festival in the state of Minnesota."
     
    Marketing & Economy
     The Fair had a $965,000 marketing budget, with a media mix that included electronic and traditional billboards, bus sides, TV ads, radio ads, indoor restroom poster ads, Facebook ads, newspaper inserts and print advertising. According to the fair's Media department: "We dropped online banner advertising and shifted that focus to Facebook advertising and some specialized Grandstand print ad buys" 

    Weather may always be the most important consideration, but several factors contributed to the record attendance the fair achieved this year. One factor that Hammer minimizes is the health of the economy, and dismisses suggestions that attendance and fair spending figures can be seen as economic indicators. "Nothing is bulletproof from bad economic times, but people who go to the fair always go the fair," he said. "The weather is more of a factor on attendance than the economy. If attendance is up, people say the economy is better or if the economy isn't doing as well, they say the fair is affordable entertainment."

    However, one sign that the economy is on upswing was the temporary work applications. "It was the first time in a few years that we had to recruit workers," said Hammer. "We have a couple of thousand seasonal jobs and we were getting way more suitable applications than we had jobs for in recent years, but this year around June, I went to the board, because the applications were not coming and we have to go and recruit workers. That hasn't happened in a few years, so that is a little anecdotal piece of evidence that the economy is getting better." 




  • Attendance & spending down at the Illinois State Fair
    10/13/2014
    Since 1853, the people of Illinois have been gathering together every summer to celebrate agriculture.

    The Illinois State Fair, held this year from August 7 through August 17, had more than 10,000 farm animals at the 366-acre fairgrounds in Springfield, said fair manager Amy Bliefnick.

    Admission to the fair was $7 for adults and $3 for children and senior citizens. Parking was $7, she said.

    There were plenty of opportunities to find specials on the admission cost throughout the 11-day fair event. Veterans Day, when veterans and their families were admitted free, was on August 16. August 17 was senior citizens and Scout day, when those groups were admitted free.  Admission was $3 for all on August 23, which was Family Day.

    Also celebrated was Agriculture Day, Governor's Day, Republican Day, Futures for Kids Day and Park District Conservation Day.

    The fair was initially funded by $1,000 in the 1800s, with the money coming from the state treasury, Bliefnick said. The Illinois State Agriculture Society was formed, and that organization took over the managing of the fair until eventually the State Department of Agriculture took charge, the same organization that oversees the fair today.
    "The fair today is a lot of different things for a lot of different people," said Bliefnick. "It's actually pretty comprehensive."

    About 890,000 people attended the Illinois State Fair of 2014, according to Bliefnick. The number is slightly down from last year, she said, and she believes that has a lot to do with the weather. "We had rain eight out of eleven days of the fair," she said. "It just rained."

    It wasn't enough rain to close anything down, but it did apparently keep some away from the fair who might have otherwise attended.

    Even the midway was slightly down. North American Midway Entertainment provided the midway. Bliefnick, who has been with the Illinois State Fair for 10 years, said she was uncertain how long North American has been with them.

    But Pat Repp, who is with North American Midway Entertainment, said the company has been serving the Illinois State Fair for more than 20 years.

    The midway was down this year by about six percent, Repp said, and "overall, I felt very happy we were down by only six percent." "It's a nice state fair in Illinois," he said. "The weather just wasn't quite on our side this year. But we got through it, and we did well."

    North American took 47 rides to the Illinois Fair, he said. What was up a bit in sales was the new Megapass system that is offered by North American. The card that is issued for rides looks something like a driver's license, he said, with the owner's picture on it.

    "It serves the same purpose as an armband," said Repp. And despite the fact that overall midway sales were down somewhat, there was an increase in the number of Megapass cards purchased. The system has been available for only the past two years, he said.

    North American Midway Entertainment is an international company with corporate headquarters in Farmland, Indiana. The company provides rides games and food to fairs and festivals in 132 communities in 20 states and four Canadian provinces.

    Fair officials said there were more than 200 food vendors, providing a selection of foods for the taste of just about everybody.

    As for the stage entertainment, more than 15,000 people attended the Florida Georgia Line concert, said Bliefnick, making that concert one of the most popular of the entire entertainment lineup.

    Florida Georgia Line is an American country duo made up of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard. One of the duo's most recent albums is "Here's to the Good Times."

    The fairgrounds cover 366 acres with 171 exhibit buildings. The fair also provides a campgrounds for those attending the fair. There are 300 sites available that can accommodate motor homes, RVs, fifth wheels and tents with electric and water and limited sewer hookups. Shower facilities and restrooms are also available. Security monitors the Illinois State Fairgrounds twenty-four hours a day.

    Fair officials emphasized that the state fair this year had many free and inexpensive activities for families. Attractions called Kids Corner and Farmer's Little Helper both offered a free, safe environment for parents to relax as their children played. Kids Korner had puppet shows, marionette shows and storytellers to keep kids entertained as well as face painting booths and other games and activities.

    Farmer's Little Helper let children experience the life of a farmer. They would gather fake eggs, milk a simulated cow and even receive a token for a free treat as payment for taking their crops to market.

    In nearby Happy Hallow, fairgoers were invited to enjoy free music, according to a press release. There were also magic and animal shows daily. Attractions included Wildlife Wendy and her Tropical Birds, the Swampmaster Gator Show and a Wolf Pack exhibit featuring live wolves.

    The free petting zoo included a zebra, a llama and sheep.

    Bliefnick said the fair was advertised through the State Fair website, through social media, newspapers, radio and television. She said she was uncertain of the amount of the advertising budget. 

    The Illinois State Fair is held in Springfield, Illinois, three hours south of Chicago.

    Temperatures during the fair were in in 70s and low 80s, she said, absolutely perfect to stroll the ground, ride the rides or do anything else fairgoers desired to do.
    And, just as promised in the early days, the fair in 2014 was true to its agricultural roots, with great representation from local school children who were members of 4H. The famous Illinois State Fair butter cow was displayed throughout the event.

    The agricultural side of the fair was highlighted when the steer in the junior livestock show brought $100,000 on the auction block. It was the first time in the history of the fair that an animal has been sold for such an extraordinary amount.

    AT&T, Monsanto and DeKalb combined to bid $100,000 for 12-year-old Shaelye Varner's grand champion crossbred steer. The price easily surpassed the former record of $62,000, which was set just last year, and it was one of four records broken during this sale. 

    In all, the sale raised an amazing $260,095 for not only the junior producers who raised the champion animals, but also the 4-H and FFA programs. Each organization received 10 percent of the proceeds.


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HEADLINES from the web
SHOW ROUTES
Houghton Enterprises
Frightland
Middletown, DE
10/10/2014 - 11/1/2014
Wade Shows
North Carolina State Fair
Raleigh, NC
10/16/2014 - 10/26/2014
Wade Shows
South Mississippi Fair
Laurel, MS
10/17/2014 - 10/25/2014
Amusements of America
Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair
Statesboro, GA
10/20/2014 - 10/26/2014
Miller Spectacular
Jr. Chamber Parish Fair
Elk Grove, LA
10/21/2014 - 10/25/2014
Amusements of America
Coastal Carolina Fair
Ladson, SC
10/30/2014 - 11/9/2014
INDUSTRY CALENDAR

11/17/2014-11/21/2014
IAAPA Attractions Expo - Orlando, FL
[more info..]

12/7/2014-12/11/2014
Annual IAFE Convention and Trade Show - Paris Hotel - Las Vegas, NV
[more info..]

2/3/2015-2/7/2015
I.I.S.F. Gibtown Extravaganza - Gibsonton, FL
[more info..]

2013 TOP 50 FAIRS
1. Texas State Fair - Dallas, TX
2. Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo - Houston, TX
3. Minnesota State Fair - St. Paul, MN
4. San Antonio Livestock Show & Ex. - San Antonio, TX
5. Eastern State Exhibition

View Top 50 Fairs

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The Industry Buzz
Indiana's Elkhart County 4H Fair names Bryan Blair as new general manager

The Elkhart County 4H Fair in Goshen, Indiana named long time MCW visitor Bryan Blair as their new General Manager on October 10.  Blair's job as general manager will be to provide leadership and vision for growing the fair, as well as overseeing the fair's staff and grounds for the fair board.  Blair previously worked for the Kentucky State Fair board serving as expositions administrator and also helped re-organize the Taylor County Fair in Campbellsville, KY in 1997 and is an active fair board member.  For more information, click here.
  Posted by Matt Cook on 10/13/2014
Western Fair District And North American Midway Entertainment Sign 10-Year Contract
London, Ontario, October 6, 2014:  Hugh Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer, Western Fair District (WFD) is pleased to announce the recent signing of a 10-year contract with North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) as their signature event's sole Midway provider.  This new partnership will add a fresh dimension to the District's fall classic.  

NAME will continue to honor Western Fair's tradition, since 1867, of providing the community with a superior entertainment product, great energy, fun, and community celebration and has committed to present at the 2015 Western Fair:  a Blitzer Roller Coaster;  Niagara Falls Water Flume Ride;  a 110-Foot Giant Ferris Wheel;  Mega Drop Tower and Mach 3 ride, which is a 37 meter arm that with two seats mounted at each end, produces a 3.5g on riders, to name a few of the new rides.   Diaz also noted that due to the size of the ride inventory, new and exciting rides will be provided year-after-year to keep the midway presentation fresh and exciting.

The 2015 Western Fair will be held Friday, September 11 through Sunday, September 20.   

  Posted by Amy Girton / NAME on 10/6/2014
2015 Carnival Photo Calendar Contest
Want to win a free 2015 MCW Carnival Photo Calendar?  We are seeking your best fair, midway, or carnival photos to be included in our 2015 Carnival Calendar Photo Contest!  For more information visit:  http://goo.gl/o9Vv62


  Posted by Matt Cook on 10/6/2014
Wood Entertainment upgrades lighting on Magnum
Michael Wood recently upgraded the lighting on his Mondial Magnum, replacing the standard flashing LED lights on the rides back wall and front signs with a new custom RGB programmable system from Denny's Electronics.  The new lights are circle shaped and built as low profile modules that are of similar diameter of the turbo bulbs they replaced.  While the cap of the module is clear, the circuit board has a color overlay on it so that the bulb appears to be the same color as the scenery which it borders unlike other RGB color changing LEDS which appear clear / white during the day.

Click here to watch a video of the new LED lights in action.
  Posted by Matt Cook on 10/3/2014
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
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.

Belle City is NOW HIRING FOR 2014!  Ride Supers and Ride Foremen - Chance Giant Wheel Foreman - Electrician Wanted!  Call Zack: 321-578-0449 or 
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