Wet Weather Dampens Attendance at State Fair of Louisiana

A crowded day at the fairgrounds.

A wet opening day helped account for a seven percent decrease in attendance at the State Fair of Louisiana, Shreveport, from last year’s 450,630 to 419,000 in 2011.

“Our first day, we had rain and it was a huge day last year,” said Chris Giordano, president and general manager, of the Oct. 27-Nov. 13 event.

The fair does a dollar day promotion on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., where admission, parking, carnival rides and some food items are $1 each.

“We had 40,000 last year on opening day,” Giordano said. “This year, we didn’t have very many because it rained all day.”

That figure pretty much makes up the difference between last year’s and this year’s attendance figure, Giordano said, but with the midway down nine percent, he also suspects the Louisiana economy played a part. “Money may have been tighter,” he added.

At the same time, the cost of doing business for fair officials continues to rise, so they are considering a gate admission increase of $2 from $8 to $10.

“Profits are becoming less,” Giordano said. “We feel like it may be time to have a modest increase. I looked at fairs across the country and a lot that are $8 are going to $10 or $12. Some larger fairs are $15. I know that would be too high for our market, but we could bear $10.”

The fair offers a lot of free entertainment with the price of admission, Giordano noted, including the concerts which take place on an outdoor stage area that accommodates up to 3,000 people.

Lakeside, a funk band known for their 1980 hit “Fantastic Voyage,” drew 3,000, which Giordano attributed in part to the timing of the concert after the on-grounds college football game between Prairie View A&M and Jackson State at Independence Stadium.

“We made a deal with the college for $2 a ticket to let them into the fair,” Giordano said, on a double-stub ticket that allowed fair officials to count their stubs and send them to the college for redemption.

Other bands and attendance were LoCash Cowboys, 500; John Anderson, 1,000; Blue Oyster Cult, 1,200; Wayne Toups, 1,300; and Hispanic Heritage Day, 2,600.

Hispanic Heritage Day, the last day of the fair, has drawn attendance from a regional area including the cities Tyler and Longview in neighboring Texas.

“Since we’ve embraced the Hispanic community, over the last five years I’ve seen from being out at the fair, you can see and feel the increased numbers,” Giordano said.

The fair paid about $120,000 for the musical entertainment, compared to closer to $200,000 for grounds attractions. Nearby casinos that have opened have lessened the demand for concerts at the fair, Giordano said.

“Every weekend, there is a concert now,” he said.

The fair also offered ticketed PRCA Championship Rodeo on two days of the fair with an attendance of 5,000, and one day of Mexican Rodeo with attendance of 1,000. Those events took place at Hirsch Memorial Coliseum. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $15 for upper level general admission and $20 in advance and $25 day of show for box seats general admission. Those tickets all included gate admission.

Gulf Shores, Ala.-based Lowery Carnival Co. placed 60 to 65 rides on the midway with the help of Crabtree Amusements, which provided about half the rides, Giordano said.

Lowery and Crabtree had just picked up a new giant wheel and trucked it to its first appearance at the fair, where it was the top-grossing ride, Giordano said. Other popular rides included the Power, Vertigo, Freak Out and Pole Position. Fair attendees enjoy a spin on Vertigo

Pay-one-price wristbands cost $10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and regular wristbands cost $25 at the fair. A $28 deal let fairgoers in the fair and gave them a wristband, and if they got them at Brookshire’s and Super One grocery stores in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas, they could get an additional $4 off the price and pay $24.

The overall budget at the fair is $2 million, and the marketing budget is $210,000. Although Giordano has increased the use of social media such as Facebook, doing the work himself and offering contests such as giving prizes to people who submit what are deemed to be the best fair photos, he also still believes in traditional media.

“We were involved in a few events this year that other promoters did and I noticed a couple of events didn’t spend on traditional media and relied on social media,” Giordano said. “Those events busted. I felt like they didn’t spend enough on traditional media.”

Even though the State Fair of Louisiana is a smaller fair, officials have encouraged a variety of fair food. This year one concessionaire, Corky Concessions from Salem, Ind., offered frog legs, Rocky Mountain Oysters, fried watermelon, fried soda and doughnut burgers.

McKinney Concessions offered one of the big hits of the fair, red velvet funnel cakes, Giordano said. They also made deep-fried Kool-Aid.

“The red velvet funnel cake was a huge success,” Giordano said.

Next year’s dates will be Oct. 25-Nov. 11, which means the fair’s Veterans Day special of letting anyone with a military ID in for free will be on the last day of the fair.

“There is a huge Air Force base in Bossier City that is the home of the B-52 bomber,” Giordano said.

Interviewed for this article: Chris Giordano, (318) 635-1361.

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