Board of Agriculture looks at WSFWritten by Saige Albert
Cheyenne – During their April 13-14 meeting, the Wyoming Board of Agriculture heard from a variety of speakers on updates related to the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. Notably, the Board was updated on the Wyoming State Fair (WSF) and its progress over the last several years.
As a part of the update, contractors Community Builders, Inc. reviewed results from surveys they conducted in 2014.
“Over the last few years, we have conducted a survey of Wyoming State Fair patrons,” said Joe Coyne of Community Builders, Inc. during the April 14 meeting. “We have set a benchmark over the last three years.”
The majority of surveys were conducted on the fairgrounds using handheld devices. Based on historical figures for attendance, at least 400 surveys were required to achieve statistical accuracy in the data.
Survey responses were collected from the Saturday prior to the Wyoming State Fair during 2014, resulting in a total of 860 surveys. In 2012, 700 responses were collected, and 625 were collected in 2013.
“There was so much activity during the fair earlier this year,” Coyne said, noting that the increased response rate reflected attendance and activity.
The majority of attendees are from the general area of Converse County, often within a 50-mile radius of Douglas. Laramie and Natrona Counties are the next highly represented at the event.
“We aren’t seeing a lot of people outside of exhibitors coming from farther away,” Parker added. “WSF is a regional draw.”
“WSF attendees tend to reflect the distribution of the population of Wyoming,” said Coyle.
Of the survey respondents, only 38 percent have no involvement in agriculture.
When spending money at WSF, Coyle said, “People spend money on food.”
The majority of attendees spend money on merchandise after purchasing food.
“There are opportunities for developing new vendors,” Coyle continued, also noting that the people who attend WSF are those people who enjoy attending fairs, festivals concerts and outdoor activities.
Megan Parker, also of Community Builders, Inc., reviewed the level of satisfaction seen by WSF attendees.
“On overall event satisfaction, almost 86 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied,” she explained. “People are happy. They enjoy the events and the activities.”
Often, dissatisfaction revolves around specific instances or events that occurred during the week.
“The highest satisfaction for events is the WSF parade,” Parker said. “People love the parade.”
While good information has been collected, Communications Builders, Inc. noted that the number of post-fair surveys was not enough to provide good statistical data.
“For our recommendations, 150 surveys post-fair isn’t enough,” said Parker. “We would recommend WSF shift to taking satisfaction surveys immediately after the event.”
A recommendation was made that WSF focus on satisfaction surveys rather than the demographics surveys.
They also recommended that WSF work to promote some of their events to a different demographic to capture the most potential.
“For example, WSF had a Christian concert last year, and people came who had never been to the fair before,” Parker said. “We can focus on finding creative ways to market to those people.”
WSF Director James Goodrich noted, “We’ve done a good job of defining who our audience is in a lot of ways, and this group has done a good job of confirming a lot of that.”
For 2015, Goodrich mentions, “We won’t be doing the full-blown survey this year. They have done an excellent job. We will probably do something like a structured suggestion box to keep lines of communication open.”
“In our promotion for 2015, there is a concerted effort to shift toward electronic media – Facebook, an online campaign and our website,” Goodrich explained. “At the same time, we haven’t dropped a lot of our traditional means.”
In looking toward the future, Goodrich looked at updates and improvements scheduled for 2015.
“There was a $100,000 request in the supplemental budget to do an update of our master plan,” Goodrich said. “There are several pieces out there, and we want to pull them together to come up with a comprehensive master plan.”
Among the updates are upgrades to several buildings.
“Most recently, we need to take an assessment on where we are,” Goodrich noted. “We have 59 structures on the fairgrounds, and they were built from the early 1900s to 2008.”
The building known as the dairy barn on the fairgrounds is in need of renovation, Goodrich emphasized. The building, which includes the Ag and Natural Resources Center and the covered commercial exhibits, could either be torn down and rebuilt or renovated.
“That building is a focal point for our fair, and it is a big project,” he said.
A variety of other buildings are also reaching the same age and will be in need of renovations soon.
“We want to make the next step with the building,” Goodrich added.
He also noted that $785,000 was made available to put concrete in as much of the two livestock buildings as possible.
“It was no surprise by the time the dollars were appropriated that there was enough to do a basic slab in one of those buildings,” he explained, noting that the project is $110,000 short of being able to put a concrete slab in only larger building.
“Construction management presented this information to the Building Commission earlier this week,” Goodrich said. “They were optimistic that contingency money would be made available, but we don’t know the outcome right now.”
Goodrich also reported that the Pathway for Water Quality and the wetlands are looking good and functioning properly.
“This isn’t a project that was going to be finished over night,” he said. “The grass, trees and demonstration plots have started to take hold, though, and it has served its purpose in downpours and heavy runoff.”
He also noted that no new trees have been planted for the Living Legacy Program because of lack of viable space.
With a constant focus on improvement, Goodrich mentioned that WSF is preparing for another great event in 2015.
Though camping was a concern at the 2014 Wyoming State Fair (WSF) with the prevalence of long-term occupants on fairgrounds, WSF Director James Goodrich notes that the concern is less this year.
“The campgrounds have been at capacity for the last several fairs,” he said. “We don’t see the impact from long-term campers this season due to the decrease in activity as a result of oil prices.”
Again this year, long-term occupants will be asked to leave the fairgrounds during the duration of the event.
In gathering information about the demographics represented at the Wyoming State Fair, Megan Parker of Community Builders, Inc. noted that the group worked to gather their data from a wide variety of venues – ranging from the Midway and show rings to the Grandstands and commercial exhibits.
“We wanted to capture everyone who was at the fair,” Parker explained.
“Over half of the people who come to fair have come for more than five years,” she said. “They claim it is a family tradition, or they come to hang out with friends.”
Seventy-one percent of attendees noted that they always attended the fair. Only 17 percent of survey respondents were first-time attendees.
“We continue to have people who haven’t been to fair who want to check it out,” Parker said. “In terms of marketing and capturing people, though, many attendees already know it is happening.”