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Four friendraising tips that attracted fairgoers
by Darrell Rubel
This year, I was part of a rookie team charged to “do something different” for the Nationwide Donahey Ag and Hort Building at the Ohio State Fair. So we decided to have a friendraising campaign: building relationships with people we didn’t know, surprising our fair guests and collaborating with our building partners in new ways.
Here are four takeaways from my experience at the fair:
1. Provide an experience for the whole family to enjoy together. Think about your favorite family memories: it doesn’t involve picking up a brochure. It’s doing something together. Something like Ohio Soybean Council’s tractor simulator that offered a seat in a tractor cab to drive through a virtual tractor course. Another something to do was a chick incubator barn, built by David Blankenship and Ohio Poultry Association, that people could see in from all four sides and watch chicks hatch and interact with each other. Because our partners thought outside the box - our guests had lot more to experience.
2. Focus on friendly. We created welcome stations to answer questions. Our goal was to look every guest in the eye, give them a smile and say “hello.” Most of them smiled back, a lot of them stopped to talk and we made a lot of new friends who asked a lot of good food and farming questions. Guess what? They were pretty nice folks and we learned a lot about each other.
3. Identify the details that make a difference. Fairs are not known for being clean, but what if they were? You notice when you are in a clean building versus stepping on someone else’s gum, chewed corn cobs and corn dog nuggets. A broom and dustpan make a difference. We added music in the building and were surprised to see kids (and adults) dancing in the aisles. We also added a jump rope contest and a cheap battery bubble gun that brought a lot of surprised smiles and giggles. Guests created their own fun... all we had to do was provide the atmosphere.
4. Share the spotlight. Friendraising gives opportunities to highlight others, and we were grateful to find out that others were willing to step up and be involved. Agriculture’s story is a big one that includes food, transportation, education, workforce development, science, medicine, environment, conservation, energy and most of all community. I am thankful for many new friends that helped this year. Inner city youth built and shared their aquaponics display joining wine producers, Master Gardeners, The Andersons, 4-H and FFA and so many others who came onboard to share their time, teaching and talents.
Speaking of spotlight, we had three amazing interns Ian Adams, Kelly Fager and Kelly Guthrie and our team of Ag Ambassadors who put their hearts and souls into the success of the fair. As Walt Disney once said, “You can dream and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make it a reality.”
Again, thanks to all our new friends and partners! You made a wonderful difference!
Darrel Rubel is the director of learning delivery for Ohio Farm Bureau.