Maryland State Fair staff, along with Charm City Cakes, designed the 50th Anniversary Cake to celebrate Max Mosner's time at the fair. (Photo Credit: Edie Bernier)
Last year, the Maryland State Fair experienced low attendance of 312,758 after dealing with an earthquake, a hurricane and a tropical storm that all hit during the event’s Aug. 24 to Sept. 3 run.
This year the Timonium, Md.-based fair was down an additional 3.8 percent, to an all-time low of 301,154, due to bad weather, said GM Max Mosner.
But Mosner, celebrating his 50th fair with a cake from Charm City Cakes, a bakery featured on the Food Network show “Ace of Cakes,” took the low attendance in stride.
“We have a very solid foundation,” Mosner said. “Our year-round business is very strong. I would be surprised if we lost money.”
An annual program in conjunction with the governor’s office to honor volunteerism was rained out and did not draw many fairgoers, Mosner said.
“Some years we’ve had 25,000 of those people alone,” Mosner said, noting that the rain on that day could have accounted for the decline. “Although I think it rained that day last year too, so the comparison probably isn’t a valid comparison.”
Palm City, Fla.-based Deggeller Attractions was down 4.5 percent, grossing $890,000 compared to last year’s $932,000, Mosner said. The carnival placed 42 or 43 rides on the midway.
Pay-one-price wristbands cost $22 and could be used on the opening Friday as well as the following Monday through Friday, but not on weekends or Labor Day. A $5-off coupon was available at participating Food Lion supermarkets.
Gate admission was $8 for adults and $6 for fairgoers 62 and older, $3 for children ages 6 to 11, and free for those 5 and under.
Admission prices have not changed for a few years and there is no plan on the horizon to do so, Mosner said.
“We’re pretty comfortable with that number,” he said. “It if gets too high, you get a negative result. We’re pretty happy with that.”
Fair officials placed a stage in the infield of the racetrack for concerts, with “endless” capacity at 16.5 acres, Mosner said. A sellout would be a capacity of about 10,000, but no one reached that figure.
The fair presented three concerts. Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice had the highest attendance with about 4,000 plus 600 VIP seats. The other two concerts were the Christian act Newsboys with The Afters opening, as well as country act The Band Perry. The latter show proved to be a disappointment.
“We had some weather issues,” he said. “They were on the stage and off the stage and the concert was delayed. We had our hands full with that one.”
Tickets for the concerts cost $24 for Newsboys and $34 for Justice and The Band Perry, Mosner said.
The overall budget for the fair is $5.5 million. The marketing budget is $200,000, the bulk of which is spent on radio and TV, with some print as well as social media. “We’re trying to keep up with the times,” Mosner said.
The fair’s theme, “The 10 best days of summer,” had to change when the fair went to 11 days, which Mosner noted was not as catchy. Still, fair officials stuck with the theme and used the number 11 throughout its marketing campaign, such as the placement of the number on the udder of a cow, or two corn dogs side by side that formed the number.
“That was the whole theme of advertising,” Mosner said.
In spite of the rain, the fair saw several highlights, including pumpkin carver Ray Villafane. It also served as the site of Handy International breaking the world record for world’s largest crab cake, at 300 pounds.
Handy International breaks their own record for the World's Largest Crab Cake with this 300-pound behemoth. (Photo Credit: Brenda Bowen)
Then there was the fact that it was Mosner’s 50th fair. He started as a part-timer in college in 1963. The confection created by Charm City Cakes, helmed by celebrity chef Duff Goldman, was not consumed, Mosner noted.
The four-tiered cake was topped with a giant wheel and features other homages to the fair, such as a racetrack, livestock, games and one tier devoted to a swinging chair ride.
“We didn’t cut it,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out a way to preserve it and put it in our museum. We had other cake to eat.”
Next year’s dates will be Aug. 23 to Sept. 2.
Interviewed for this article: Max Mosner, (410) 252-0200.