The Future Of Equine Expositions: Regional Success!
In the previous three articles in this series, the nature of the equine industry and the impact of equine expositions was explored along with an overview of what it takes to create and host a large equine exposition that brings in “big names and big companies” to help draw attendance through the gate. The series explored costs that have to be covered before the first ticket is purchased and how rising costs of facilities and other economic factors are hurting the “big shows” which have not been seeing the growth in their ledgers as they would like. Big Shows + Big Venues + Big Names = REALLY BIG COSTS that are getting harder to justify.
In Part III of this series, the concept of the “regional” exposition was explored and what it can bring to the Equine and Rural Lifestyle community and industry. The article spoke of an event called Equus Fest, which made the concept a reality, creating a one-day event that brought incredible learning opportunities, with five regionally well known (and some internationally known) clinicians who offered demonstrations and lectures. The event also brought in equine health care and industry professionals to share the latest trends, products, knowledge, and services available.
Craftspeople, clubs, breed associations, and other “horse focused” organizations were on hand to inspire and educate the Attendees about the many options and breeds available in the region. The event provided a platform that encouraged the much-needed exchanges, growth, and commerce essential to keeping the equine industry healthy, vibrant and on the path to recovery from the economic downturn that greatly reduced the solvency of the industry. And it did it without breaking the budget of the exhibitors and attendees!
The event was a success both fiscally and within the community which has encouraged the event organizers to “saddle up again” in 2020! Check out the website link provided in this article to learn more about Equus Fest “West” in February of 2020!
What are the keys to success for regional celebrations? There are many moving parts to be considered as a metric for success but if they can be distilled down into a few categories they would be Facility, Costs, Vision and Time.
FACILITY: Depending on the theme of the event, finding an easily accessible facility that has the amenities needed, such as an arena (with good footing, preferable a cover, seating and a decent P.A system), indoor space (climate control is often needed as is access to electricity), flush bathrooms (not just porta-potties), good parking for exhibitors (which include clinicians, demo riders, vendors and presenters) and attendees, outdoor spaces for those large item exhibitors (like Featherlite Trailers and John Deere Tractors) and the infrastructure to handle issues like trash pickup and arena maintenance during the event.
COSTS: Everything costs money! The goal is to keep costs low so the event can be profitable while providing good space, marketing and foot traffic for the event and its exhibitors. Some facilities charge for every little thing, right down to the number of trash bins they give the event while others create a package deal. It is a balancing act!
The ideal formula is that the sale of booth spaces to exhibitors covers the costs of creating and putting on the event and the ticket sales bring in profit, some of which has to be invested back into the event for the following year. If booth prices are too high the number of exhibitors goes down. This is bad. If the ticket prices are too high, attendees will not come through the gate. This too is bad. By managing costs and finding the right balance, the event can stay “in the black” and remain vital.
VISION: Having real clarity as to what the event is and is not is crucial! In the case of Equus Fest, it was billed as “a celebration of all things horse and rural lifestyle” with a real focus on education. It did not try to be a big show in a little package. It tapped into the regional talent and industry and stayed true to its vision. The message (marketing) was consistent with the vision as was many of the choices made in regards to the type of exhibitors allowed to participate and how the schedule was crafted. Staying true to the concept, the vision of the event, keeps all decisions focused and helps to manage the associated costs too.
TIME: When the event happens can also impact the overall success. Depending on location, it is always a good idea to avoid conflicting with the big expos, trade shows, rodeo and big horse shows in the area. Being towards the beginning or near the end of the region’s “show season” is also helpful. Exhibitors plan out their schedules far in advance so the sooner a good date can be secured, the better it will be for the event (and all the marketing efforts). The right date can impact success in many ways! The duration and hours of operation are also a key factor. Remember that a one-day event that runs from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm may require set up as early as 6:00 am and tear down as late as 9:00 pm. Depending on the facility this may impact costs.
The regional celebrations focusing on the horse and the related rural lifestyle are powerful for the industry and community and provide a great platform for regional talent and businesses to make connections and garner new clients. These endeavors provide the much-needed touch points and relationship building opportunities needed for the “equine and rural way of life” to stay informed, profitable and vibrant!
You can help out by attending a regional event! Your purchase of a ticket helps EVERYONE involved in making the event happen and will keep it coming back, better and better year after year! Volunteering as a team member is another way to be part of the success. It is easy and fun (and usually gets you in free too)! You can always dive right in, do your homework and craft up a regional event!
It may feel a little like a part-time job your first go-round but once you have an event under your belt the process of creating and managing a regional celebration can be pretty smooth! No matter how you support it, being part of a regional event, like Equus Fest, is an investment well made that will pay off great dividends!
Thanks for reading!