What I learned in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas

The N.C. State Fair attended the 2009 IAFE annual convention to "Power Up!"This week, I represented the N.C. State Fair at the International Association of Fairs and Expos annual convention in Las Vegas, along with Mike Pleasant, our assistant manager. It was a great opportunity for networking with knowledgeable people from fairs around the world, and for taking some interesting educational workshops.

At a workshop called “Greener Fairs,” I was asked to present a case study about our recycling program, and at the “Social Media Power Up Lab” I was grilled on the nitty-gritty details of our social media campaign. In both sessions, attendees asked great questions and shared advice from their own experiences.

Mike and I picked up some tips for recruiting and placing new volunteers; we learned about the principles of food and beverage concessions and how to improve the fair/vendor relationship; and got an eye-opener about our signage placement and other important features in a workshop that asked us to look at the fair through an attendee’s perspective.

In the emergency planning symposium, we learned about the importance of proper preparation to ensure fairgoers’ safety, and at the foundations networking forum, we heard some great advice from fairs who operate charitable non-profit foundations. In addition to several other great classes, we were inspired by the words of motivational speakers during the general sessions. And the convention wouldn’t be complete without the trade show, where we got to meet some new performers, see old friends and learn about companies with products designed to improve the fair experience.

One of the best parts about the convention is the Education Center & Cyber Cafe’. This is the place where all the first-, second- and third-place submissions in the competitive exhibits, advertising and agriculture awards categories are on display for everyone to peruse. This year, the N.C. State Fair helped provide a USB drive to each fair that contains digital copies of most of the winning submissions. With this USB drive, everyone can take home some great ideas for new competitive exhibits, effective advertising campaigns and educational agriculture programs.

As it turns out, the N.C. State Fair took home several awards in our division (Division 4, fairs with an attendance of 500,001 to 1 million) garnering us international recognition:

Hall of Honor Communications Awards

  • 1st place: Web site
  • 2nd place: Television Ad
  • 3rd place: Newspaper Ad – Black and White
  • 3rd place: Best Use of Social Media

Agricultural Awards Program

  • 2nd place: Green Program (for the Green NC exhibit)
  • 2nd place: Non-Fair Agricultural Event or Program (for the Got to Be NC Festival)

I’d also like to give a shout out to the Mountain State Fair, also run by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which took home seven awards in Division 2 of the Agricultural Awards and Competitive Exhibits Awards competitions.

It was truly a great convention, and I am very lucky to have been able to attend and speak on our behalf. Now, it’s back to work to implement all the great things I learned and make the 2010 State Fair the best yet … and maybe bring home a few more awards next year, too!

About Blue Ribbon

Natalie Alford blogged for the 2009-2011 N.C. State Fairs. This is her bio from 2009: I work at the Fairgrounds year-round, so I'm always in the middle of the fun! During the Fair, I work with the press office team to organize events and exhibits, and log a lot of miles on my pedometer. I'm also the County Agricultural Fairs Coordinator, which means I license, promote and visit North Carolina's agricultural fairs and enjoy thousands of blue ribbon entries every year. I hope to see you at the Fair!

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