Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition was held March 1 to April 5.

Marking its 64th anniversary, the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition, held March 1 to April 5, 2015, proved to be a resounding success. According to Claudia Hernandez-Maltes, director of marketing and sales for the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, Inc., this year’s annual Fair & Exposition celebrated more than 650,000 guests, a 7.7-percent increase in attendance as compared to 2014.

Known for generations as “The Youth Fair,” the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition is a private, not-for-profit organization that has donated more than $10 million in scholarships, awards and cash premiums to Miami-Dade students and is dedicated to supporting education and South Florida agriculture. In 2014, it awarded $90,000 in college scholarships, including $7,000 to winners of Miami-Dade County Public School’s inaugural Elie Wiesel Foundation Prize in Ethics Essay Contest.

“The entire Youth Fair team is absolutely thrilled with our 2015 successes and sincerely thanks everyone for making this year’s event our largest in 10 years,” said Bob Hohenstein, president and CEO of the Miami-Dade County Fair & Expositions Inc.

As Hohenstain explains, the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair is the largest fair in the state of Florida and is the 30th largest fair in North America.

“It also is larger than 36 of the United States’ state fairs,” Hohenstein said. “We could not achieve what we are able to without the wonderful support of the people of Miami-Dade County.”

In fact, to meet the increasing popularity of the fair, this year three additional days were added to the fair’s calendar to meet the fair’s growth potential. The Youth Fair, which has operated 18 days since 1983, saw a 22-percent spike in attendance the past two years.

According to Hohenstein, the additional days were in response to the overwhelming increase in attendance and positive feedback from guests, local businesses and educational and agricultural partners. The fair’s board of directors voted unanimously to extend the run time of the fair for the first time in more than three decades.

Great weather, with the exception of two rainy days, greeted the crowds.

According to Hernandez-Maltes, events included many “firsts” such as the first annual fundraisers hosted by concessionaires featuring a golf classic and lobster fest benefiting The Youth Fair’s Scholarship Fund and Miami-Dade County students.

Another first was the inaugural Foodie Awards, a canned food drive to benefit the Miami Rescue Mission that reached more than 10,000 cans.

“We also had a proclamation by Miami-Dade County proclaiming March 12th as Miami-Dade Youth Fair & Exposition Day in Miami-Dade County,” Hernandez-Maltes said. “The Youth Fair also hosted various celebrities and their families as well as international guests, who all came to enjoy all that the Youth Fair had to offer in 2015.”

To entice community members to attend the fair, special discounts and promotions were offered. For example, a school spirit uniform day, allowed students wearing a uniform shirt or blouse with their school logo to receive free admission during the fair’s opening day. And in honor of the fair’s 64th anniversary, guest number 64 at each of the turnstiles on opening day received four free admission tickets to return to the 2015 fair on a different day.

“This year we also offered the 2015 Youth Fair Fun Card, which included admission for 21 days,” Hohenstein said. “In addition we had the New Foodie Awards, new concerts—we added country this year, a new ride called ‘Screamer' and new foods.”

The 2015 Youth Fair Fun Card, which could be purchased for $25, admitted one guest throughout the duration of the Youth Fair’s 21 days (one entry per day) and included a free 2015 Souvenir Cup. The Fun Card was valid for gate admission only and did not include ride tickets.

Also, homing in on the popular “express pass” concepts at amusement parks throughout the country, the Youth Fair offered its own “Express Access Pass” that gave guests faster access to their favorite rides on the North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) midway. The Express Access Pass cost $15 per person and was available for purchase on-site only.

Free general parking and free tram service ushered fairgoers to enjoy the addition of two new rides to the extensive lineup of nearly 100 rides provided by NAME. “Patrons also get to enjoy the many concerts, which are included in the price of admission,” Hernandez-Maltes added. Some of the concerts included Rodney Atkins, Kool and the Gang, Brandon Heath & Danny Gokey, Judy Torres and Johnny O.

The 2016 Youth Fair & Exposition will take place at Tamiami Park on SW 107 Avenue & Coral Way, its home since 1972, from March 17 thru April 10, 2016, except March 28 & 29 and April 4 & 5.

Interviewed for this story: Claudia Hernandez-Maltes, (786) 315-5264  and Bob Hohenstein, (305) 223-7060