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Fair Production During a Pandemic: It’s UnFair in Weber County, Utah

  • Robert M. Brecht, PhD.
  • July 24, 2020
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It may seem unfair. That because it really is in Weber County, Utah. Weber County, replaced its county fair with a county “UnFair.”

The Weber County Fair is held each year at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah. Situated in the heart of Weber County, the Weber County Fairgrounds is comprised of 141+ acres, with six buildings, four barns, a racetrack and a cross-country course, and recreation courts.

The Fair started in 1988 and draws about 50,000 people to the Fairgrounds for good food, loads of entertainment and the opportunity for people to celebrate together. These elements and its creative and dedicated team of board members, county leaders, event center staff and volunteers make it one of the largest and top county fairs in the state of Utah.

While most county fairs around the country scheduled for this summer and fall have cancelled this year’s events, the folks at the Golden Spike Event Center would not let a little virus spoil the chance for the community to celebrate. Here’s how Ashton Wilson, Manager of Events at the Golden Spike Event Center and Weber County Fair Director described how they responded to the Corona Virus.

From the beginning, we made the conscious decision to lean into the state mandated guidelines and find a way to continue operating events within those guidelines. Although it required more effort in terms of additional staff, control points, etc., we felt it was important to lead out. To our knowledge, we were the first to produce an event in the state of Utah. We hosted a barrel race at the end of April and scheduled participants in hour slots with no more than 10-20 people at a time to adhere to guidelines applied during the “Orange” phase. A LOT of planning went into it, but it was a huge success. We had nothing but gratitude from our community. That has been our stance since the pandemic began and we didn’t think anything differently about the Fair. This year has been hard for everyone and we believe our community needs a celebration. Why not at the Weber County Fair? Our event center is a leader in the state, as will our Fair be. Our team is fantastic.”

The idea for this year’s theme, Weber County UnFair, came from Jim Harvey one of their county commissioners. The virus has made 2020 year unfair for everyone and doom and gloom permeate peoples’ mindset. That led to the adoption of the “UnFair” theme.  The team decided to have fun with this year’s theme. You can see it in they way they are promoting the event. “2020 has been unfair. Come to Weber County’s Pity Party, The UnFair!”

What’s more they made this comical video as part of their promotion efforts. It just goes to show how a virus can’t stop creative people from doing their thing.

This year’s UnFair will be hosting a Rodeo, Youth Rodeo, Indian Relay Races and the Jr. Livestock Shows and Auction. Of course, there will be entertainment. That’s where TSE Entertainment is involved. TSE has been working with Duncan Olsen, General Manager of the Golden Spike Event Center, for the entertainment aspect of their Weber County Fair since December of last year. Duncan had come by the TSE Entertainment booth at the International Association of Fairs & Expositions’ Trade Show at their annual conference and reached out to us for help before the pandemic.

The Fair Board did not decide to move forward with the modified Fair until July 1st. In other more normal times, it would be very difficult to book a headliner for a Fair less than a month away. But these are not normal times so TSE booked one of our Featured Roster Artists, Country Superstar Tracy Byrd, as their headliner for a “Truck Bed” concert as the UnFair entertainment.

Ticket fees for the Tracy Byrd concert will be priced by vehicle. The first three rows will be premium parking at $200 per vehicle. All other rows will be first come, first serve general admission at $125 per vehicle.

As you can imagine the UnFair Team is taking many steps to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus during the event. The Health Department and the UnFair Team have been working together to identify the precautions needed to move forward with the event. After all the health and safety of those attending is the top priority for those involved in putting on the UnFair. Examples of safety measures include:

    1. Using their ticketing software to collect information for contact tracing if needed. Knowing who is seated where and their contact information will provide the health department the information they need for tracing.
    2. Reducing the density and seating capacity for events. They did this by creating subsections within seating sections to decrease the number of people as well as make it easier for the health department to do contact tracing should someone were to test positive who had attended a specific event.
    3. Live streaming the livestock shows and auction so that high risk individuals can view the proceedings and still see their children, grand kids, neighbors and other people they know show their animals and watch the auction.
    4. Escorting spectators to their seats. Staff and Fair Board members will usher patrons to their seats and will remind them to social distance.
    5. Sanitizing all high-touch surface areas before, during and after events.

Quoting Ashton Wilson again about adapting to the new pandemic reality.

 “It’s all new! Under the situation we’ve found ourselves the past four or five months, it’s amazing to see our team become unbelievably creative and resilient. The event industry has been hit hard, and it’s either put our heads together and figure it out or lose our jobs. Teamwork is crucial, as well as communication. We’ve been upfront with our customers and event producers and everyone has been really understanding because everyone is going through the same thing.

We couldn’t pull this event off without the support of our commissioners, board members, sponsors, and Weber County residents. We are extremely grateful to get this opportunity when so many don’t. It is our hope to come together as a community and celebrate what Weber County has to offer.”

TSE is proud to be part of the Weber County UnFair Team. The last-minute decision to go forward meant scrambling to find a suitable headliner to fit both the fair audience demographics as well as their budget for the concert. It’s the kind of thing we like to do, i.e. solve entertainment problems.

Both Duncan and Ashton have been great to work with for the entertainment portion of the Unfair. TSE hopes to add Weber County Fair to the other fairs we book year after year. We take pride in developing long-term relationships built on trust and our ability to exceed the expectations of our clients.

So, if you have been feeling that 2020 has been an unfair year, then you just might want to consider going to Weber County, Utah’s Pity Party, The Unfair starting August 5th

 

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