Top 5 Reasons to Take a Fair Field Trip
January 14, 2016
Lessons learned from two excellent fair adventures!By Amanda Griesheimer As seen in IAFE Magazine
We all have “that one friend,” right? The one that just gets you? Together, you come up with ideas that others find crazy, when in fact; you both know they are genius. Those friends are fantastic - they make life more fun. We are lucky to have them. I’m luckier than most because my “that-person” is my co-worker (my boss, though she hates the term), JB. What can I say – she’s the cake to my icing! One of our crazy-genius ideas came while we were driving (9 ½ hours) home from the Zone 5 Conference in Nebraska in 2014. Around hour 15 of our round-trip, we started discussing how nice it was the year before when we just took Amtrak to the conference in Kansas City. Somehow, that conversation turned to using Amtrak to visit other fairs, and JB & Amanda’s Excellent Fair Adventure was in the works. Two trips in, this is what we’ve learned and why we would recommend it to everyone!
5. Getting there (and back) is half the fun (or struggle)
You know how sometimes you come up with an idea that you just know people are going to respond to? There’s no doubt that it will be AWESOME, right? But occasionally, it doesn’t go quite as well in real life as you pictured it in your head? This is the story of our travel in 2014. It seemed simple enough – hop on the train at 5 p.m. on Thursday, arrive in the middle of the night, kill some time until the gates open, see everything the Kansas State Fair has to offer in one day, get back on the train at 3:30 a.m. and arrive back in Washington by Noon on Saturday. Easy-Peasy. Sure, that was going to be 43 hours without a shower, but it turns out that was the least of our problems. First, there are interesting people on trains. Second, they are not always on time. And lastly, they didn’t even have melted cheese for my pretzel. I will let you decide which of those are more important than others. However, I will point out that receiving text messages every 30 minutes from 2:30 a.m. until 5:00 a.m. reporting just how late your train will be is not ideal. Sometimes it results in missing your next train (approaching 48 hours without a shower… this is a problem). So sometimes the travel doesn’t go quite as planned, but often, the best stories come from those experiences. For instance, our grounds contractor drove to Kansas City to pick us up so we didn’t have to wait for the next train… and then we got in traffic caused by, wait for it, elephants. Yep, true story. Apparently the circus was in town.
4. Some things are the same.
There is so much to learn from each other, specifically about how we handle the same issues differently. You better believe that if you are having an issue at your fair, there are others going through the same thing. It’s particularly exciting when someone has gone through it and already has the solution! Things like signage, grounds layout, vendors, competitive exhibits displays… the list goes on and on. There is so much to learn every time you visit a fair, and in our
industry, we are sharers of information. Observe and ask questions and it’s amazing the information you can come home with.
3. Some things are different
This is where it really gets fun, because some of the things that are different could be tweaked to work at your event. Some fairs are laid out in a way that you would never consider. It’s great to see first-hand how beneficial some changes can be. Don’t forget to have a fully charged phone on your adventure, because you’ll want to take pictures of everything you don’t want to forget!
2. Fair people are the best people, and we just don’t see enough of each other.
Kudos to you, fair friends, because you are the best around. It’s a great industry that attracts great people, and a few conferences a year is not enough to fully appreciate everyone. Plus, it’s an entirely different experience to see people at their fair, in their element. Some days are better than others, of course, but our friends at the Kansas State Fair and the Eastern States Exposition were excellent hosts. Everyone took time to talk shop with us, and it was great to get to know people a little better. If you have the opportunity, take advantage of it, because people are one of the best resources we have!
Seriously, I know we all love our own fairs, but do you ever get so caught up doing your job that you find yourself sprinting to the midway at 10 p.m. on closing night for a corndog and a ride on the octopus because you haven’t had time yet? I adore my job, and I adore my fair, but because of my job, I never see our fair as a fairgoer. While that has certain perks (I really enjoy my parking space and having a bathroom that rarely has a line), there are things you experience differently as a staff/board member instead of a fairgoer, and there are some things you get used to and forget to appreciate. Take advantage of the opportunity to try foods (lots of them) and experience everything that the fair has to offer. Be a wide-eyed kid again, and remember all of the reasons to love this industry!
It’s funny how some ideas really take off. After receiving looks from co-workers that clearly said, “You’ve lost your minds,” when we announced our first Excellent Fair Adventure, by 2015, the staff was lining up to go with us! With the support of our board of directors, our entire staff (7 awesome ladies) hopped a flight to the East Coast this past September to visit The Big E. I cannot encourage you enough to do the same. We came back with ideas galore, refreshed from an extended weekend, ready to hit the ground running with plans for our fair, as well as our next Excellent Fair Adventure. Happy travels everyone!
Amanda Griesheimer is the Director of Marketing for the Washington Town & Country Fair in Washington, Missouri. This article was originally published in the International Association of Fairs and Expositions' bi-monthly magazine, F&E.