Technology's Influence on Fairs
Fairs will always hold a special place in my heart. It brings me back to summers spent counting down the days until the county fair. My local 4-H club exposed me to lifelong friendships and offered opportunities from camp counselor to club president that helped pave the way for who I am today.
I reflect on those summers of hard work tending the garden and raising my show swine, rabbits, and chickens with a strong sense of nostalgia and respect. Where else can the youth of today learn true work ethic and passion at an early age?
The local fair furthered a community connection with agriculture and livestock -- something my hometown once boasted with pride. Of course, times change and the small town I grew up in has become an ever-expanding community constantly building and growing. From the time I was 2 to where we are now, the population has increased by over 25,000 residents (whoa!). Although the fair is still an important attraction it’s not the centerpiece of the summer months it once was.
Urban sprawl shoulders some of the blame for this but the rise of technology undoubtedly tracks with the decline of traditional fairs as well – and it’s no wonder. When we no longer have to leave the comfort of our own homes to connect with people and virtual reality has the ability to bring a roller coaster experience directly into our living rooms, it’s easy to see how and why it’s become harder for fairs to compete. However, as counterintuitive as it may seem, for many fairs the ailment is also the cure.
It’s easy to look at technological advancements with skepticism or even distaste but as some of the most successful fairs will attest, there is a way to embrace it and combine old traditions with new trends to find real and lasting success.
Social media puts an expanded community directly at your fingertips. No longer do potential attendees have to wait for the advert in the newspaper to read about the attractions coming to your fair. You can push the schedule out as soon as you have it finalized. There’s even the opportunity to get community involvement and participation in the planning phase. Presenting a survey —“would you rather see this act or this one?”— to give people a say and create a sense of ownership in the process!
The experience of the fair has the ability to become interactive. The November/December issue of IAFE’s Fairs & Expos highlighted the Erie County Fair using a text alert system so that guests could be notified when a calf was being born and, better yet, they live-streamed the event so that guests who were no longer on the fairgrounds could join the experience. This is a prime example of how fairs across the country are using technology as a form of direct interaction with what the fair can offer.
Beyond the more public-facing examples, technology can also play a significant role in fair management’s ability to tighten up processes and increase overall efficiency, level of organization and revenue—all of which has to be on point if you’re going to be able to build and sustain a successful, modern fair in today’s landscape. Software systems like Ungerboeck can bring all of that to the table and then some with a unified solution for booking, accounting and vendor management for fairs and non-fair events.
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