Expanding state fair's schedule to boost attendance, economic activity, study says

Topic: Miller College of Business

August 6, 2009

The 153rd Indiana State Fair will pump millions of dollars into the Indianapolis economy Aug. 7-23 as cost-conscious Hoosiers take advantage of lower gasoline prices to trek to one of the Midwest's top summer entertainment venues, says a new study from Ball State University.

An economic analysis of the fair — which this year has been expanded from 12 to 17 days — should attract about 1.06 million people, up from about 859,600 last year, said Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), a division of Ball State's Miller College of Business.

Hicks believes the expanded fair schedule and the correlating rise in attendance should increase further the event's economic impact in central Indiana. His study estimated the 2008 Indiana State Fair generated $61.7 million in total economic activity within Indianapolis and 861 full-time equivalent jobs.

The study may be found at Current Studies and Publications on CBER's Web site.

"Without a doubt, the state fair is a major economic benefit for Indianapolis," he said. "During the 17 days of the fair, hundreds of thousands of people come into the state's capital, spending millions on food, hotels and merchandise. Adding a few days should help the bottom line for many area businesses."

The study found that about 70 percent of the 2008 fair attendees were out-of-town visitors who spent $61.40 per person. Sixty-five percent of the average visitor's expenditures were outside the fairgrounds, used on food, drinks, souvenirs, lodging, shopping, attractions, car rental and gasoline.

Hicks also believes the 2009 state fair will be an attractive entertainment option for Hoosiers looking to save a few dollars because of the weak economy.

"During most recessions, people tend to stay close to home when looking for something to do on long weekends or vacations," he said. "Historically, state fair attendance jumps during a weak economic period."

Hicks also found that the average daily attendance in 2008 was roughly 71,600, but projects a modest decline to 62,500 per day on average during 2009 as schools begin fall classes and vacations end. During those additional days of this year's expanded fair schedule, expected daily attendance should average 40,600.

"While daily attendance may go down slightly, the fair experience should improve as less visitors will allow people to do more things," he said. "This model does not include weather fluctuations, which can generate variability in fair visitation. If we continue to have very nice weather for the next few weeks, we could see larger than expected crowds."
 

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