Apr 26, 2022
This week, your host is joined by the Assistant General Manager at the Oakland County Fair, Sara Ressler!
Sara Ressler is responsible for handling the marketing and finances for the Oakland County Fair. The Oakland County Fair is a 501c(3) organization with a mission to provide a public educational showcase of our youth through hands-on experience with exhibits, demonstrations, and presentations, as young people develop life skills in a family atmosphere. Before working for the Oakland County Fairs, Sara served on the fair board and was a twenty-year fair volunteer. Outside of the fair, Sara and her family raise and show American Saddlebred horses. They are very involved in the horse community.
In this episode, Sara shares her
history both with horses and at The Oakland County Fair. Sara has
raised her family around the fair. She shares family stories and
her experiences with her family and her fair family! Sara talks
about the effects of technology and the pandemic on the fair and
what changes are planned, especially around marketing to
Millennials and internet access in the county park. She shares her
enthusiasm for the youth exhibitors and how they grow in experience
and confidence that will last for their
Listen in for more info about The Oakland County Fair.
Topics of Discussion:
[:45] Christina Rudolph welcomes you to this episode of The County Fair Podcast and introduces her guest, Sara Ressler, Assistant General Manager at The Oakland County Fair.
[1:32] Christina welcomes Sara Ressler to the podcast!
[1:51] Sara started with horses when she was four! She has had horses her entire life until she was in college. When her children were young, she took her daughter to the fair, where she saw an American Saddlebred horse. She really liked that horse! That was 20 years ago.
[2:55] Sara’s family got their first Saddlebred shortly after that. They currently have nine Saddlebred on their farm. The daughter was 10 when they got the first horse. She is still all-in! She trains the horses and is active in the American Saddlebred show circuit.
[3:30] Three years ago the American Saddlebred Association held a raffle for a breeding from the retiring World Grand Five-Gaited Champion Horse. Next year, the resulting horse will be far enough along in his training to start competition. The horse looks just like his “daddy”!
[4:42] Alongside her work at the fair, Sara worked for years in Show Office Services, retiring last year. She managed the entries for 21 horse shows a year from Michigan to Georgia and Missouri. The Oakland County Fair is in Oakland County Michigan.
[7:09] Sara talks about the wonderful experience she had at the IAFE Convention this year. One session, Marketing to Millennials, presented by college students, was very effective in explaining what Millennials want to see, such as photo opportunities, digital maps, and unique vendors.
[13:55] Sara went to the IAFE Convention to pick up ideas to implement at The Oakland County Fair. She decided to work on an integrated interactive map and QR codes for short fair event surveys. The use of technology is now a necessity more than a luxury.
[15:49] Sara talks about Wi-Fi availability on a fairground in Northern Oakland County, which is a rural area. They are looking into bringing in fiber optics, but the infrastructure is not there yet. The fair is in a county park. They are looking to partner with the county and also apply for grants and sponsorships.
[18:47] Sara encourages fairs to reach out to surrounding fairs for fundraising ideas, such as golden tickets to achieve a goal.
[20:39] Sara describes some of the aspects of The Oakland County Fair. It is an opportunity to reconnect to our agricultural roots and see what our kids are doing in their projects with their animals. Sara has a story about a young man in his first year of raising turkeys.
[23:04] The younger exhibitors look up to the graduating exhibitors who help and teach them. Children attend the fair and see other children exhibiting and they want to do that too, so they transition to exhibitors and they shine and grow.
[25:06] Sara talks about the confidence kids get from their accomplishments. They take that confidence forward in life and apply it to other things. It gives them a leg up for their future. Sara’s children got their first jobs from people who knew their work ethic from exhibiting at the fair.
[27:18] Sara’s kids learned when they didn’t place as well as they wanted to, that maybe they hadn’t spent as much time on their project as they should have and they planned to do better the next year.
[28:53] Sara tells about the wonderful team around her, both her personal family and the fair family. Her husband is on the board of directors. All three of her kids come back to help her before, during, and after the fair. Her son-in-law participates as a judge.
[30:11] The Oakland County Fair will typically have about 2,500 entries. The pandemic decreased the number of exhibitors. At the last fair, there were in the mid-300 exhibitors as opposed to their usual 500 to 600 exhibitors.
[31:22] In 2020 The Oakland County Fair had an exhibitors-only competition. There could be 100 people in the facility at a time, including exhibitors, judges, and any volunteers. They held every exhibitor event, including livestock auctions.
[32:15] In 2021, they were preparing for a limited-access fair but five weeks before the fair, the governor lifted all restrictions, so they went from limited access to fully open in five weeks. They broke every attendance record they have had — with a worker shortage! Their patrons were very supportive and patient.
[35:09] The Oakland County Fair can trace its roots to the 1800s but people are still discovering it and asking if it is new. They just celebrated 50 years in the county park. Before then, the fair was held in Pontiac, less than 15 miles away. The best advertisement is just to get somebody to the fair the first time. They tell their friends and bring them!
[36:31] Sara shares her favorite fair memory! It’s about her daughter showing horses.
[37:36] The Oakland County Fair is always the first Friday after the Fourth of July! This year, ir is July 8th through 17, 2022.
[38:40] Christina thanks Sara for joining The County Fair Podcast!
Mentioned in this Episode:
Reach Sara Ressler at email@example.com
The County Fair is Brought to You By ShoWorks
ShoWorks’ fair entry software has set the gold standard for fairs across the United States and Canada for more than 20 years, serving more than 75% of the country’s fairs. ShoWorks is in place to handle fair entries, billing, payouts, and the incorporation of virtual elements into your show and auction. Visit www.FairSoftware.com to learn more!
Want to Learn More?
Visit CountyFairPodcast.com for show notes and additional episodes.