There's A Meeting for That

Blue-Ribbon Panels

Anything you see at a fair, you see on the trade-show floor at the International Association of Fairs & Expositions Annual Convention.

Illustration by Carmen Segovia.

International Association of Fairs & Expositions Annual Convention
Nov. 29–Dec. 2, 2015
Paris Las Vegas/Bally’s Las Vegas

If you have rides, games, food, and entertainment, you’re a carnival. If you have rides, games, food, and entertainment, plus livestock, crops, or some other agricultural component — congratulations, you’re a fair! Your industry organization is the International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE), whose Annual Convention is held every year in Las Vegas.

“It incorporates a wide range [of members], because the State Fair of Texas is going to have a full-time staff with lots of staff members, where the Arlington County [Virginia] Fair might be run completely by volunteers,” said Kate Turner, CMP, IAFE’s director of meetings. “There’s a wide variety of things we’re trying to cover, because the fair that has a couple thousand attendees probably has different needs than the [1.8-million-attendee] Minnesota State Fair, but they’re all in the same workshop.”

FAIR GAME“Anything you see at a fair, you see on our trade-show floor,” Turner said. “We’ve got insurance [suppliers] and people selling tickets and those things. Then there’s also the 10-foot-tall robot, stilt walkers, and the dinosaur that you see strolling about the fair grounds.”

BEASTLY IAFE’s education sessions cover stalwart topics like insurance and emergency planning — with a twist. “One of the things that we have to talk about that maybe a regular convention doesn’t have to talk about is, if there’s a fire [at a fair], you’re not only evacuating people, you’re evacuating animals,” Turner said. “You can’t evacuate them in the same aisle.”

HOT SEAT Is it intimidating for Turner to be planning a big show for people who themselves plan big shows? “It can create challenges, but they understand,” Turner said. “They’re always willing to, if we need somebody to take tickets at the door — ‘Sure, I can do that.’ Because they work with volunteers.”

NEXT STOP: TEXAS After 40 years of meeting in Vegas, in 2018 and 2019 IAFE will pitch its tent at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. “With the San Antonio Stock Show [& Rodeo] there, that does help,” Turner said. “And there’s fairs all over the state of Texas. Being in the Midwest helps, because a large part of our membership base is in the Midwest.” 



Workshops and Roundtables
 ‘Fair Time Labor — Volunteers, Minimum Wage, Prisoners, Civic Groups’

  ‘20 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Fair Website’

 ‘How We Handled Canceled Poultry Shows in 2015’

 ‘If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy’

 ‘What to Do When Your Ticketing System Fails’

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.