Skyrocketing Attendance and Spending: Erie County Fair Goes to 2022

Perfect weather, enthusiastic visitors and a dedicated team were just some of the things that helped the 2022 Erie County Fair fully live up to its enduring claim: “The Best 12 Days of summer “.

By the numbers, the 2022 fair was arguably one of the best in this 182-year-old Empire State tradition: attendance hit 1,148,079, a 17% increase from 2021 and the James E. Strates Shows Midway had its most profitable day in the company’s 98 years. relationship with the fair, one of the oldest intermediary contracts in the industry.

“Since 1924, when my grandfather James E. Strates first brought his carnival to Hamburg, the show had never had a record run like the Erie County Fair in 2022,” said James Strates, COO of Strates Shows. “This milestone is a wonderful prelude to our company’s 100th year in business which will be celebrated in 2023. The 98-year exclusive relationship between the Erie County Fairgrounds and Strates Shows is considered a historic milestone in the modern entertainment industry, as it is considered the longest continuous run of any halfway carnival in the United States.

Even though COVID and its repercussions continue to disrupt fairs, 2022 has shown that much of the pre-pandemic stability and normal business operations have been restored. This trial by fire that COVID has proven to be for community-focused outdoor events seems to have reinfused some fairs with a new commitment to their missions, especially those who have navigated COVID with an eye to the future. For the Erie County Fair, COVID halted consecutive years of growth.

Continuous investment

It looks like the 2022 event not only achieved strong attendance and chest replenishment revenue, but restored that trajectory. “Erie County Agricultural Society management continues to invest in fairground infrastructure and dedicates resources to new programs each year,” Strates said. “The fair has struck the right balance between maintaining centuries-old traditions and creating new programming that fosters a new generation of visitors.”

“We are proud to report that the Erie County Fair was a safe and successful event,” said Jessica Underberg, CEO and Fair Director, Erie County Fair. “Thanks to our various partners, we have been able to provide community support, foster economic impact and continue our mission.”

For the Erie County Fair team, a more familiar planning pattern was reinstated this year, as last year’s scattered reopening policies delayed planning – the 2021 Erie County Fair opened less than 90 days after the lockdown was lifted – this year’s return to a more typical planning period has boosted staff morale and commitment. “Obviously we were able to plan and reflect instead of watching them on a tight schedule,” Underberg said. “There was a certain sense of excitement when we opened the show this year, and we all felt it. Even before the opening, Jimmy Strates told me: “I feel a certain energy this year. Now, I don’t know if we’ve always felt that energy, but it’s not always a good smooth fair. We saw good attendance, good spending and it ended up being a really good fair.

Admittedly, some of the energy of 2022 came from the lack of challenges unique to 2021. “Last year, delivery was an issue and we were running out of stuffed animals, cups and food. There were shortages of yellow dye, which we use for safety shirts and vests. This year, there have been labor shortages; we had local vendors who couldn’t have the staff. It’s just a reminder that COVID can make it feel like it’s in the past, but it really isn’t. But 90% of the fair is back to what it was before. We still have hand sanitizers, but you don’t see as much mask-wearing or social distancing. »


more critical

One of the most notable differences between 2021 and 2022 was a drop in apprehensive anticipation. “Last year we expected things to go back to normal, but it wasn’t like 2019 anymore. This year we all got to see the smiling faces and the big crowds.

Fairgoer’s attitude has also evolved. Enthusiasm for the fair has always been high, but in 2021, when the return to normal was just beginning, they were easier to please and more willing to ignore the inconvenience. “The customer is more critical. They were more forgiving last year than this year. Last year they expected things to be “off” due to COVID. This year, if something went wrong, there was no consideration as we are still working on things.

Two COVID-related issues that everyone is working on are labor shortages and inflation. The first, while still threatening, is not as pressing as it was in 2021. “Finding workers was different…last year people were worried about COVID and being in a big crowd, this year people just weren’t willing to work,” she said. “The Erie County Fair is still not full, maybe a little better than last year, but we were still nowhere in 2019.”
With inflation, Underberg noted that the fair was able to maintain some ride and admission prices, “Food prices are where [inflation] was most apparent. We allowed people to bring coolers to the fair, which is a selling point. They are searched and no drinks or alcohol are allowed. Costs are rising for gas for everything and it all comes down to the decision of the family budget.

Inflation fears were not severe enough to dampen mid-term spending. According to States, 50% of the top 12 days of the summer at the Erie County Fair resulted in daily records for the middle company, which included “the highest-grossing day of the Strates Shows 98 years at the Erie County”.

Halfway through, 50 rides were featured, including the triumphant return of the Crazy Mouse roller coaster. Not only was attendance robust, but so were the number of residents and length of stay. “People are willing to spend on a good product, and the Erie County Fair is one of the best fair experiences in North America,” Strates said. “Halfway, the free entertainment, mission-based exhibits, beautiful grounds, etc…the Erie County Fair offers exceptional value for the entertainment dollar. You can’t experience the Erie County Fairgrounds in a few hours or even a day. This leads to repeat visits over the course of the 12-day race, leading to increased expenses at the fairgrounds, including halfway through.

He added, “Strates Shows and the Erie County Agricultural Society (ECAS) take the time to listen to everyone’s needs and modify plans based on customer benefit and the financial success of the fair and carnival. Show Manager Jessica Underberg has a good understanding of the outdoor recreation sector and the challenges we face as our industry continues to evolve. We share each other’s successes and watch out for each other during unforeseen downturns. It all comes down to trust built on 99 years of honest communication and business.


Good times ROAR

The fair’s marketing campaign introduced a vintage notion that inspired nostalgic joy – A Roaring Good Time – and while the fair did not drastically change its media spend split, there was a renewed focus on a campaign on line. “The media mix was pretty much the same as 2021,” Underberg said. “We have focused heavily on digital placement, including online advertisements, social media posts, Google AdWords and SEO, in addition to traditional outreach efforts in radio, television and print media. We work closely with our broadcast partners to provide additional exposure to the event.Public relations efforts help raise awareness of the event and its activities to affiliates of NBC, CBS and ABC, all of whom are broadcasting live. during the fair We also work with 4 radio stations which broadcast live from the fair.

So what have been the biggest changes facing the fair? For Underberg, the answer is people. “I think the new normal (or newest challenge) is how to keep employees engaged, motivated and engaged, we ALL do more with less. There’s probably no fair that’s ‘back to the normal” when it comes to staff. It’s hard to keep asking people to do what they do (weekends, nights, 12 days of fair plus set-up and tear-down). I’m lucky to work with a team of passionate and dedicated people.

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