Back to the future: Speakers put focus on what fairs can expect

February 18, 2002 | By Natasha Emmons

Two different breeds of futurist opened the first two days of the Western Fairs Assn. meet here Jan. 28–29. One talked about what society as a whole will want from fairs in the coming years, while the other specifically focused on the up-and-coming teenage generation. Rolf Jensen, author of “The Dream Society,” said the most important element in marketing a fair is “story” The hero of the fair story has to be the farmer, but an antagonist is also necessary to make it a good story. One example of a antagonist could be the superficial nature of city living today, Jensen said. “City people don’t know people on farms, so you can tell them anything.”

The story also needs helpers (the fair organizers), a “fairy god-mother” (the fair association) and an audience (the fairgoers), he said.

“We want stories. We are seduced by stories,” he said. Stories reflect the rhythm of life, where on one hand we want chaos, or excitement, and on the other we want order, or back to the ordinary. This cycle is represented in the standard story arc, he said. “This is the secret of story and the secret of life,” he said.

Jensen used the popularity of bottled water as an example: “You transport bottled water across Europe, across the U.S. If you have a blind taste test, you don’t know the difference because in a blind test there is no story. The better the story, the higher the price,” he said. “Bottled water tastes better than tap water, except in blind tests.

“The role of fairs in the future is telling the farming story, the roles of the fair, the basic values to the eager city dwellers. It’s not necessarily true in your brain, but it has to be true in your heart,” Jensen said. “We know the truth, but we want to be seduced. Let’s appeal to the emotional logic instead of the mind logic.”

Good Kids

The upcoming generation is similar to the World War II “G.I. Generation,” said William Strauss, author of “Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation.” “These are good kids on the whole,” he said.

“Don’t think about the news you read or the movies Hollywood splashes out. Think about your own kids, their circle of friends, and multiply that across the country,” Strauss said.

Substance abuse has declined, the suicide rate has declined, teen pregnancy has declined—all led by inner-city kids, Strauss said. The mortality rate of teens is lowest level on record. “We do not have an epidemic of school violence in America,” Strauss said.

The up-and-coming generation—sometimes called the Millennial Generation—is patriotic, technologically savvy, happy, achieving, sheltered, confident, team oriented, conventional, action-oriented and is extremely busy “These are not kids who have a lot of time on their hands to lie around on their backs and look at clouds,” Strauss said. They are under pressure: “Two of the main things they fear are grades and college admissions.” And girls set the tone for the first time in history, making the generation less risk oriented, he said.

Fairs are a good fit for the new teens because they are looking to get away from their hectic lives and rediscover a sense of community, Strauss said.

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