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4 Min Read

Fairgrounds Planning for the New Normal

As cities and states begin to reopen for business, Ungerboeck hosted a virtual summit that brought fairground industry leaders together to share insights about how they are prepping and changing their day-to-day operations to adhere to the new way of doing business.

Panelists included:

  • Calgary Stampede - Rod Tate, Director of Stampede Programming
  • South Florida Fair - Matt Daly, Director of Operations
  • Minnesota State Fair - Erik Klingner, Events Supervisor
  • Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition - Eddie Cora, President

It was unanimous that the largest focus is planning what the new normal will look like and how to prepare to get their venue back up and running.

“COVID- 19 doesn’t mean we can’t have events; we just have to change up the type of events or how we can have the events” -Matt Daly with Florida State Fair

Here are the 5 main takeaways:

1. Customers will need to feel safe at your venue

So much has changed with event planning and set-ups in the wake of COVID-19. Adding a few simple steps to your processes will ensure that your venue is clean and following all safety standards—helping your planners and guests feel comfortable about coming back to your venue.

In our recent Fair & Fairgrounds Summit, your counterparts all agreed that it is critical to work closely with your local government officials to help them feel confident that you can put on a safe event. They emphasized that this is the time to take a step back and analyze internal processes. A few suggestions they made:

  • Go hands-free with payment and ticketing options
  • Add hand sanitizer stations, automatic sinks and hand dryers—all important to consider upgrading to meet safety guidelines
  • Make it a priority to train and educate your teams on cleaning protocol and safety precautions
  • Ensure that your staff has the knowledge to correctly answer any questions that guests might ask about how you are handling their safety while visiting your venue
  • Work with your external planners and vendors to ensure they understand their responsibilities
  • Make sure to adjust the space offered to external event planners so they can allow for proper social distancing and allow one-way traffic to their attendees

Two of our panelists are purposefully producing smaller events – not to generate revenue but instead to practice procedures and also demonstrate to local officials that they can perfect procedures with smaller events, and give them confidence that they can have larger events. Positive results also help the public feel more comfortable being at the Fairgrounds.

Another great point from one panelist: Make Safety Fun! Train staff to be upbeat and visible while cleaning and taking the important steps to make the customer experience safe.

2. Think outside the box

Fairgrounds typically have a ton of space with most of the space being outdoors, so your venue has a great advantage compared to most venues when it comes to social distancing rules. Another great option to consider when reviewing crowd size limitations is to offer pre-registration in time blocks. Not only will this help control queue lines and overall volume, but it will help generate demand for the high traffic times. Use the time blocks to help with team scheduling as well. For example, if you create a time block for attendees considered high risk, you may not need your amusement rides open during that block of time.

Offer your space to the community –Fairgrounds are usually made up of smaller teams but can do some mighty things for their community by offering their space for COVID testing sites, summer camps and high school graduations. Another great idea is to offer your space to other venues such as performing arts centers that do not have enough space to social distance so partnering with them to use your venue will allow them to have a larger crowd and bring in more revenue. Be creative and work with your community to help fulfill their needs, while driving some revenue for your venue.

3. Keep the spirit of your event alive

Keep the spirit alive for your larger annual events that might have had to cancel this year. Explain to the community and to your customer base that even though the event is cancelled this year, you will be back stronger than ever next year! Find interesting ways to engage with them. Create or show content from previous fairs to keep them connected. Turn your events into a virtual event so people can watch from home or with smaller groups.

Don’t forget about your business partners in the community. Cancelling the events at your venue also affects your local business establishments including hotels, bars and retail stores. This could be a great opportunity to work together with these businesses to create some fun programs in the community. Tie in your event by creating spirit packs that local businesses can use to still do smaller events at their own venues to help keep the fun alive so that everyone is working together to make the event more meaningful next year.

4. Use technology to your advantage

Ungerboeck has been a partner to venues in the events industry for 35 years and we are proud to be able to provide venues with an end-to-end software solution that can service all their needs. We are looking ahead, staying flexible and adapting to the future direction of the events industry. Whether it is Hybrid events where people can attend onsite and virtually offsite, using our Registration software to host internal training and safety courses or taking advantage of our Mobile Work Orders solution to help with scheduling cleanings throughout the day, we can help cover all aspects. Ungerboeck is also very excited to offer a virtual webinar connection that seamlessly manages online participation, your event details as well as engagement statistics all within your Ungerboeck platform.

5. We will come out of this stronger than before

In the end we are all in this together and the entire fairgrounds industry as well as Ungerboeck is here for you. We hope that this article will help offer some ideas on how other venues are handling their experience and situations during this time. Success in the event industry is marked by being able to adapt to the circumstances and challenges that are put in front of us. We can evolve as an industry and become stronger in the end.

For customers that would like to see the full panel discussion please check it out in the Learning Center. If you are not a customer and would like to see it, please message us via our web chat or you reach out directly to Jennie Bueneman at jennie.bueneman@ungerboeck.com.