Utah set to welcome 2023 IAFE Annual Convention, Trade Show
AT: Pam Sherborne
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Officials with the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) are excited about the upcoming annual IAFE Convention and Trade Show set for Nov. 26–29, at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah.
The annual event is the largest gathering of the fair industry. People from fairs of all sizes — from small county fairs to the largest events in the world — come together to learn, share ideas, network and visit the trade show. All throughout the week, there are many learning opportunities, entertainment and, of course, fun and games.
Marla Calico, IAFE president and CEO, said in mid-November that attendee registration was going very well and the floor plan at the convention is set for 310 booths. It will be sold out. The 310 booths represent about 200 exhibitors. The trade show will be open 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 27, and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and reopen at 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
“What we are most pleased to see is an increase in registrations from the Western United States,” Calico said. “For many, Salt Lake City is already their hub for flights, but especially with the travel ban lifted for fairs in California, we are seeing many folks from those fairs that we’ve not seen since 2017.”
In mid-September of this year, California Governer Gavin Newsom signed a law that had been in place since 2016 that banned publicly funded travel to states with laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people.
The IAFE convention has been moving to different states, testing if those moves would make it easier for some of its members to attend. In 2022, the convention was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. The three years prior to that, it was in San Antonio, Texas.
“As we move to different cities each year, there will likely be subtle differences in attendance,” Calico said. “Indianapolis in 2022 afforded many members the opportunity to bring more people to the convention than normal as they were within easy driving distance. Salt Lake City is entirely different as there are very few member fairs within a reasonable driving distance.”
Still the numbers are looking very good.
In answering the question about what new activities attendees can expect to see in 2023, Calico said the educational content for workshops is always new.
“They are on timely topics of importance to our members,” she said. “These ideas bubble up from our educational committees and are then pushed out to the entire membership for voting, as well as to add their own ideas.”
One of the unique topics this year is a series on Life Happens — Even During the Fair. Each session will focus on a different situation in life that everyone has to deal with and tips on how to deal with it while working. One will be on working while raising active teens, young children or caring for an elderly parent.
The panelists in each will speak “from the trenches,” Calico said and share their tips for balancing it all.
Another new and limited-attendance session comes under the IAFE as Educational Experiences. There are four different sessions in all.
The Learning with Legends, which is a 2.5-hour-long session, is one of the experiences featured. It will include a panel of industry legends, followed by time for the attendees to network with the legends in order to gain meaningful insights and forge new networks.
The remaining three are the Utah State Fairgrounds tour, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints facilities and operations tour, and the University of Utah Football Stadium facilities and operations tour.
Some of the workshop and educational topics this year include: A World Where Cash isn’t King - Best Practices for Managing Products and Payments; Maintaining the Value of Your Commercial Exhibitor Profile; Artificial Intelligence for the Fair Industry; Does Your Future Include Construction — Things You Need to Know; Recruitment and Training of Fair-time Employees and Volunteers; Group and Corporate Sale Packages; Connectivity Across Your Grounds and Difficult Discussions in Sponsorships.
Aside from the traditional scheduling of topic sessions, there will be three sessions of Institute of Fair Management on Sunday, Nov. 26, and one each on the three remaining days of the convention.
During registration, registrants were asked what was their primary job/role in their organization. This information was used to assign attendees to a network circle. Each “circle” will be made up of people with similar job duties. There will be ample scheduled opportunities for attendees to meet throughout the event. This time will not include any presentations, workshops or organized discussions.
Calico said it is never really easy to predict what any one highlight will be, but... “We’ll have a great opening night kick off celebrating Utah’s outdoor lifestyle with the S’More Fun event sponsored by the Outdoor Amusement Business Association (OABA) and a few of the carnival companies,” she said. “We are expecting a good response to keynote speaker, Damian Mason and of course, networking remains the most beloved and valuable aspect of IAFE events of all kinds.”
From visiting fairs and speaking with colleagues throughout the year, Calico said, in general, results were good, except where weather became a factor.
“Nothing new in that story,” she said. “But, per-cap spending has been reported to be very strong, although it seemed to be a significant trend that concessionaires raised prices to try to keep up with their increasing costs.”
Finding and keeping fair-time staff remains a challenge, not only for the fair itself, but its subcontractors as well for everything from garbage details to security.
“What seems to be an increase in unruly guests is of significant concern, and more fairs went to admission policies for minors as well as clear-bag policy implementation,” she said.
“On a positive note, we are seeing more and more fairs focus on the metrics that matter as they prepare their end-of-fair wrap-ups, switching the conversation from sheer attendance numbers to things like the impact upon the community.”
For example, she said the Erie County Fair, Hamburg, New York, generated over 140,000 pounds of food on opening day for FeedMore WNY. That is a 46% increase over the previous year fair’s donation.
The number of scholarships awarded to youth was successful. For example, Tri-State Fair in Amarillo, Texas, gave out $100,000 in scholarships this year.
There have been increased efforts to reach and involve underserved audiences. For example, Ohio State Fair, Columbus, provided ASL interpretation at over 70 events.
“Countless fairs have added special times and spaces set aside for people with sensory impairments,” Calico said. “More and more fairs are adding special livestock show programs similar to Bacon Buddies at the Iowa State Fair, Des Moines, pairing differently abled children with 4-H and FFA youngster to take an animal into the showring.”