Destination Delaware: Summer Nights, Carnival Lights Attract Out-of-State Fairgoers

The 2022 Delaware State Fair may have heated up, but it never faltered. A three-figure heatwave hampered the attendance at the 103rd Delaware State Fair, although at 299,511, it was said to be the fourth-best attendance in fair history. The last day of the fair attracted 58,600, setting a record for a closing day.

Weather is always a hit or a miss for any outdoor event, but even with a classic mid-Atlantic heatwave above average, the Delaware State Fair has continued the upward trajectory that this fair has been on since before the pandemic, fostering an effective mix of The national headlines, a stunning midway and a marketing campaign made the fair a summer destination for residents of neighboring countries.

“We were approached by more media in Philadelphia this year,” said Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager and marketing director, Delaware State Fair. “One station came out for three different parts; food, carnival and livestock. Three different news networks covered the opening. We saw more interest from Philadelphia as well as Baltimore.”

Create a FOMO

Aguilar credits an effective multi-platform social media campaign for driving the summer destination for regional travel. “Families were choosing to stay local, maybe it was because of inflation or the price of gas, but the family trip was spending the day at the fair this year. It’s a summer family tradition and locals had a few extra dollars to spend.”

In addition to the distinctive attractions promoted by the 2022 marketing campaign, it also included an extensive outreach of the Latino and Latino market to present the exhibition’s opening night of Latin music. “It was not as simple as translating our material into Spanish,” he said. “The materials have to have their own look and feel, and Hispanic fliers have slightly different fonts, colors and overall design.”

Besides reimagining bilingual content for the marketing campaign, Aguilar also recognized that the social media presence also needed major tweaks. “On the digital side, we have maintained a strong presence by developing quality content. We have hired professional photographers and videographers to go across the lands in search of content. We have also partnered with social media influencers and shared content with them, partnering with people at the grassroots level and who have strong followings.”

He noted that 86 percent of exhibition visitors access information about the exhibition through their phones, fueling the focus on the quality of image-based social media content. This year’s marketing campaign also sparked the midway slogan - summer nights, carnival lights - and was designed to create the ultimate marketing buzz - FOMO - “Fear of Missing!”

“Social media creates social media, so we put strategic backgrounds for people to take and share photos.” We used Instagram Stories, and schedule posting daily. The more information we put into different templates and places in social media, the more people will find this digital content. We have processed more than 29,000 images and achieved more than 111,000 downloads.”

Wade shows in the middle of the road

Wade’s midway offerings included 42 rides, featuring “a mix of absolutely amazing rides like The Big Wheel and coaster.”

“The Delaware State Fair was a very pleasant surprise,” said Frank Zayczyk, president of Wade Shows. The weather was very hot and we were exposed to storms. I also knew we had such a great year last year, and while I was an optimist person, I thought there was no way we could get any closer to last year, but while we didn’t get to those numbers, we got pretty close. ”

The COVID journey has been a familiar one for our current president’s home country. In 2020, it was one of only a handful of outdoor events to be held during the height of the coronavirus shutdown - many halfway touch-free transaction procedures were developed for the first time at this fair and are still in place at fairs nationwide. In 2021, Delaware once again found itself the proverbial show only in the city — especially when that city became a triplex destination — and the show smashed attendance and revenue, according to Aguilar, but those numbers were artificially high due to the unique circumstances of 2021.

“If 2021 is our best year, then it is our second best year,” Zayczyk said. “I can’t quite tell because I felt we would see a bigger impact from higher fuel prices. In events like Delaware, people are traveling long distances, but my fears turned out to be unfounded.”

Aguilar noted that food revenue was up 7 percent compared to the landmark year of 2021, but much of this was due to inflation — food vendors had to increase prices by an average of 10-30 percent. Zayczyk kept ride prices at 2021 levels — until admissions spiked, so the middle of the road was one of the few places to escape the brunt of inflation problems in 2022. “We raised prices last year,” he said. “We felt we were going to keep these prices in place this year. People have always been so helpful and understanding.”

The gallery also opened a modern livestock venue, the Castle Farm Building, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in which Lisa Plant of Rochester, Congresswoman; Ron Draper, president of the Delaware State Fair; and Michael Schuss, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture. The new multi-purpose building—home to many goats and other animals during time—will also support agricultural programming for families residing in disadvantaged rural areas of Delaware, provided by the Delaware 4-H and the FFA Association.

The show’s Delaware Lottery Summer Party Series at the M&T Bank Grandstand showcased a diverse group of talent and some of the notable names that have toured the ring this year. Nearby sales included Sam Hunt with Roman; Nelly and Hank Williams Jr., also rounded up with Halestorm, Trace Adkins, Toby, Mac, ZZ Top and of course Latin Music Night. An estimated 42,000 attended the concert series, not counting the always famous demolition derby.

“The mix of great entertainment on and off the M&T Bank Grandstand continues to show why the Delaware State Fair, 103 years later, is one of the best,” Aguilar said. “We continue to offer unique and diverse entertainment opportunities with great experiences for our customers such as VIP packages, beer gardens, live entertainment throughout the playgrounds, great food, shopping and entertainment for kids of all ages.”

But behind the scenes, the show faced challenges, specifically employment. Getting help has become an expensive and time-consuming process. “Finding employees has been a challenge for us. Our pay rate is competitive with companies, but we still struggled. We held several job fairs. I am concerned about the sustainability of the fair if this shortage continues. We have relied more on nonprofit groups and church organizations as our cleaning teams, as People volunteer to act as fundraisers for their group.”