- Wade Henry January 1, 2010
Drawing high attendance numbers is a primary interest of every Fair Board. The question is: How to pull people out of their homes and competing activities and get them to the fairgrounds? High attendance means happier vendors, more people educated in agriculture, more people touched by the whole “Fair Experience”. Those are things we all want.
Here are 3 fundamentals to achieving high attendance:
1. CARNIVAL LOCATION
This is so elementary, it almost goes without mentioning. That midway is your greatest roadside advertisement. Position your biggest rides within view of the busiest motor artery that travels by your site. Those bright, flashing lights attract people. We know this in show business. And the casino-builders of Vegas knew this well. Bright colorful lights attract people. Plan your site accordingly.
Your entertainment line-up can attract people. People often plan on going to a Fair simply because they know a certain act will be there. Of course, this is especially true for Headliner/Grandstand type shows.
As for grounds entertainment, most people simply expect it to be there. Even if they don’t come to see a specific grounds act, fair patrons feel very satisfied when they experience a good show. Your professional grounds act is effective in adding a higher QUANTITY of people to your fair because these attractions add QUALITY to the Fair Experience. Attractions attract.
3. CIVIC GROUPS
This is your answer to ensuring consistent, high and stable attendance at your fair.
Without fail – the Fairs that are successful attendance-wise invariably have this one thing in common: HIGH PARTICIPATION BY THE REGION’S CIVIC GROUPS.
What sort of community and civic groups represent themselves at your fair? We all know that 4H and FFA are the mainstays for Fairs. But what about your Lions Club? Rotary? Exchange Club? Shriners? And then there are Merchant Associations, Schools, Churches, Chambers of Commerce, Youth Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Baseball and Hockey Teams, Veterans Organizations and on and on and on.
These groups are your BEST promoters!
If you have a “70-something” who happens to be a Shriner, you are a fortunate Fair if you have that man on your grounds. He not only will bring his group, but that man has family – kids and grandkids…and many, many friends who will make it a point to come by and see him at his booth or hamburger stand. And those are your loyal fairgoers! Those are the ones that will spend a whole afternoon on the grounds! Those are the ones that will make a tradition out of the “Fair Experience”.
Here is a Marketing Plan for a Fair Manager that could boom his attendance:
1. Draw up a list of civic groups (4H, FFA, etc.) for your area,
2. Extend it further with all possible churches, youth clubs, sports teams,
professional or trade associations….any and all GROUPS in your town or region.
3. Invite these groups to participate by representing themselves at your Fair.
Tell them that your Fair is on a mission to build community again and their help
is needed by participating in some form.
4. Make it easy for them to be involved. Give out some free entrance tickets to
each group - for their key members. Listen to their ideas and give them freedom to
contribute to your event. Let them be your promoters and advertisers. They
will tell their members about the Fair. They will also promote to others. Set
yourself up as the ONE location in town that hosts ALL civic and volunteer
groups, clubs and associations IN ONE PLACE each year to show off and
promote themselves. Be an annual showcase for all these groups.
5. Encourage them to promote the fair and bring all their members, friends and
6. Book quality entertainment as a reward to all these people who are putting
tradition and community back into your Fair.
With this as a basic marketing program, I don’t know how a Manager for a mid-size Fair could go wrong. It costs almost nothing.
An advertising campaign could then also be implemented – as his budget allowed. But without word-of-mouth running its course through the community’s civic groups, he will likely have difficulty.
Whatever else you do, involve your groups. You have a fantastic opportunity to use your fairgrounds as a showcase for what these groups do for your community. Splurge on it!
Randy & Cindy Henry
4H Class of '57
At the Georgia National Fairgrounds
Wade Henry has been performing his act at Fairs across the U.S. & Canada for over 20 years. He specializes in Stage Shows, Street Performances and Strolling Entertainment. He has delivered over 10,000 shows throughout his career at hundreds of Fairs, Festivals and Exhibitions.
HOW TO ENSURE HIGH, STABLE ATTENDANCE