Martin County Fair Getting Back to Grass Roots

By Jay Spicer, Fair Manager It’s tough for smaller fairs to bring in big name entertainers, countless ground attractions and a steady

stream of local entertainers to fill the schedule for 10 straight days. So, we try to get back to the “good ol’ days” of when there was more to “do” then “see.” Our Fair is challenged with having only 9 acres to fit everything, decreasing parking areas, and too

much local festival competition. So how can we stand out? How do we make it so “You don’t want your family to miss this one?” We don’t have rodeo, demolition derby, tractor pulls, or even a place to throw a frisbee. And I would love to have a historical village area like our friends at the Clay County Fair. -sigh- But what we do have is lots of indoor building spaces. We fill them up with tactile experiences that are sure to entertain your family. We have a 3800 sq ft Environmental Building, so other than plants what do you got? We have a touch tank with starfish, turtles,

and other snakes, bats, and reptiles you can touch. We have a 12x20 butterfly room (Thanks Tom Umiker for the design) with plants and butterflies you can feed. We have a simple 12x12 sandbox with Tonka Trucks that seems to be a huge hit with the kids. We borrow Dinosaur Fossils all the way from the Clewiston Museum and put them in a home-made Time Machine. And to top it off, we run a locally produced, local Ag of Martin County film on a loop in a small homemade theatre. Nothing in there costs too much to produce, and a lot of it was donated. We have a 4500 sq foot STEM Area. Catch the STEM wave

while it’s hot! We found a “BattleBot” style makerspace group that had 50 teams from as far as North Carolina come compete. And we didn’t have to pay for any of it! Wehad our local Robots Club bring their wares and had activities that they ran for us in- cluding BristleBot Make & Race, Lego Walk of Pain, Lego build

contests, Virtual reality games, A Rubix Cube Speed competition that brought 70 kids from as far as Tennessee to compete, a “Make your own SLIME” station, and a super fan-tab-u-lous Mad Scientist Lab or Science Zone. Featuring more than a dozen hands on STEM activities like the wind tunnel, musical pipes, magnification and a rope maze, that was even a challenge for our EMTs to navigate. All put together by a High School Senior who needed to do a project for school credit. We have formed a partnership with our schools that bring us teachers to help run the Science Zone. We were also able to bring the annual School Science Fair to the Fair! Science projects everywhere! That brings in lots of kids to see their work on display. We have a 3800 sq ft Kids “AG-Tivity Center” for the 10 and under crowd. It features 8

10x10 activity areas and a DIY creation area. The homemade activities include a shooting gallery made from an old bed, a fishing game, an Egg nesting station, a honey bee toss game thing, farmer for a day, ring toss and more. (We have photos if anyone wants to see them). Plus, we fill the area with all kinds of Ag-Facts. This area won an award at last year’s conven-

tion. The DIY area has kids making pine cone bird feeders, watching chicks hatch, making butter, making whipped cream, making paper cup seed planters, and even it’s a great space to have the kids “unwind” from being out on the Midway for awhile. hav- ing Home Depot come and make wooden toys with the kids for free. Parents love it! In the Entertainment world, we made a 8x12 stage, put up some props, and provided it as an “Open Mic” stage, where we had people sign up for times to come play at the fair for free. Just head out and visit your local pubs that have Open Mic nights and leave flyers for them. Another great source for free entertainment is your local dance companies. Everybody from little kids to adult performance theatre companies that may have a show coming up to promote. Dancers, twirlers, tumblers, you name it, they bring lots of folks to the fair to watch. Also, we found a local Civil War Reenactment club that came and set up camp and fired a few muskets. Another score was a Knights of the Round Table kind of club that came and did sword fighting, along with a fencing club, whip cracking specialist, and COS Players (look it up) that just come perform at the Fair.

Make Your Fair Great Again! Keep your customers engaged. Exhibits are OK to look at, but not nearly as fun as participating.



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