When it comes to events, one group tips the creativity scale every year: State Fairs.
From their culinary experiments to their carnival-meets-x-games activities to their bizarre contests, State Fairs regularly push the mail truck in their over-the-top originality.
Start with the menus. While you will likely find such staples as corn dogs, funnel cakes and elephant ears at just about every State Fair, the Michelangelos of some midways are also concocting wonders like deep-fried kool-aid, chicken-fried bacon, deep-fried Snickers bars, fried spaghetti and meatball on a stick, wine-glazed deep-fried meatloaf and deep-fried avocado bites.
For those avoiding fried foods, these, too, are actual State Fair fare: hot beef sundae, chocolate-covered bacon, pulled-pork parfait, kool-aid marinated pickles and pretzel curds. And if you happen to be at the Texas State Fair, you can wash it all down with funnel cake ale.
Not to be outdone, State Fairs supplement their livestock shows, county exhibits, rides and entertainment with unusual activities, some that become popular and featured at many of the annual events. For instance, at many fairs, pig races feature little porkers racing around a circuit (usually chasing Oreos or some other treat) several times a day. Young humans take part in “mutton-bustin,’” trying their luck riding sheep rodeo-style. And several fairs are graced with trained bears looking dangerously cute while putting on a mini-circus act.
And then there are the daredevils – acrobats, acrobats on bicycles, even acrobats on motorcycles usually jumping things. Or maybe you’ll catch the guy who dives – okay, purposely belly-flops – from more than 40 feet into a kids’ swimming pool filled with about two feet of water.
State Fairs have always cultivated a core audience with their many contests, from the heaviest pumpkin to the largest cow to the best country ham, apple pie, watercolor painting, photograph, aquarium – you name it. They also generate a lot of interest and media attention with their not-so-traditional contests. Here are a few of the more creative examples:
- Ugliest lamp contest (KY) – This started as a display of awful looking lamps and morphed into a design contest of “uglifying” existing lamps or building hideous lamps from scratch.
- Beard and mustache competition (OH) – This competition, which has a female category, features some amazing facial-hairdos.
- Rotten sneaker contest (UT) – Judges actually must smell the entrants to determine the winner.
- Mooing contest (WI) – Anyone can say “moo,” right? Not exactly like this.
- Super Farmer contest (MO) – Among the events to determine the winner of this competition are tossing a cotton bale, carrying a hay bale, hanging a gate, gathering eggs, an obstacle course and more.
- Old Cow Lick contest (MT) – Participants decorate old cow licks or shave them into sculptures… it’s a Big Sky thing.
- Redneck Relay race (ND) – This competition challenges teams to race through such activities as eating through a pile of whipped cream, tossing corn ears into a bucket, and carrying a greased watermelon.
- Mother-daughter look-alike (MS) and twins look-alike (IA) contests – Genetics, attire and makeup are put to the test in these competitions.
- Outhouse races (IA) – These “port-o-potties” are homemade and feature racing wheels, pushers and a driver.
- Hay bale decoration (NE), llama costume (MN) and butter sculpture (IA) – Something about dressing up stuff that you normally wouldn’t resonates with State Fairs.
A lot of innovation such as that detailed above enables State Fairs to continue to draw large audiences even against demographic trends that diminish their typically rural, core audience. State Fairs also do their research, and borrow heavily from ideas that work at other fairs.
Those are some of the more obvious lessons anyone in the events industry can pull from the State Fair experience. These mega events encourage you to think outside the box. They demonstrate the value of creating activities that engage just about anyone. They tell you to have fun. And maybe they suggest you consider a deep fryer.
As always, if you have anything you would like to share about something awesome or peculiar about State Fairs, post away in the Comments section below.If you want to know more about State Fairs, your best bet is to visit one. If you want to know more about registration software and ABC Signup, please contact us by e-mail or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).