A CONVERSATION WITH WES ALLISON
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A Conversation With Wes Allison

Wes Allison is a Texas Panhandle native.  He grew up in Stratford, Texas where his mother was a school teacher and his father was a county extension agent.  After graduation from Texas A&M University in 1993, Wes spent his time managing a ranch in Coleman, TX.  He joined the Texas Agricultural Extension Service in 1996 and served as county agent in Walker and Armstrong counties.  In 2000, Wes took over the duties of Livestock Show Manager for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.  After learning a lot about the fair industry, Wes assumed the responsibilities of President and CEO for the Extraco Events Center Home of the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo in 2002.  Currently the Center hosts over 225 events per ranging from large equine events to antique shows to concerts.  The annual Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo has an attendance of 220,000 and award over $225,000 in scholarships and premiums to Texas Youth.  The Fair also produces the All American ProRodeo Finals.  Wes is married to Jennifer, who is the Executive Director for the Texas Association of Fairs & Events and the Texas Festival & Events Association.  The lights of their lives are their daughters Bailey and Brinley.

In this episode, Wes talks about how volunteers make the Heart O’ Texas Fair so successful! He explains their self-funded program for incentivizing volunteers to pre-sell tickets and sponsorships to the fair, and how this has changed and improved the organization significantly. He also talks about the need to use ROI to make decisions – sometimes difficult ones - about events and their viability because “everything should make money!” The challenge for fairs as Wes sees it? Making the experience different enough each time to keep people coming back year after year!  

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Key Moments:

  1.  8:57 - Importance of grassroots marketing: surveys show that most people come to the fair because someone asked them.
  2. 10:03 - Traditional media (television, newspaper advertising), is still important.
  3. 10:53 - Grassroots marketing at its best: Heart O’ Texas Fair has a program that greatly incentivizes its volunteer to pre-sell tickets and sponsorships.
  4. 14:14 - Program has had the unexpected benefit of identifying future leaders of the organization, including members of Board of Directors and Committee leaders.
  5. 15:39 – You need to know your ROI to determine the viability of events.
  6. 17:49 - Challenge is to keep the event fresh and different each year so people will want to come back and have a different, but similar, experience.
  7. 19:15 - Fairs and festivals need to make better use of payment technologies, especially to profit from younger generations, who shun cash & checkbooks in favor of credit cards & smart cards.
  8. 21:21 - Always look to other events to see what they are doing and they are usually willing to share their successes!
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The Amplifier is brought to you by Saffire in cooperation with IAFE, IFEA, IAVM and WFA. For more information or feedback, please contact info@saffire.com.
 
 
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