Corn dogs, elephant ears and spas ... at the fair

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The Indiana State Fair brings to mind images of deep fried foods and carnival rides, but fair-goers sometimes buy big ticket items—like hot tub spas.

At least four exhibitors, some in adjacent tents, are back at the fair this year hawking their spas hoping to cash in on an expected 1 million fair visitors.

Fair-goers spent $3.3 million in 2008, $1.8 million of it on shopping, according to a study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University.

Master Spas Inc, a Fort Wayne-based company, has been a state fair sponsor for 13 years. In the past, the company has sold anywhere from 30 to 100 spas at the event, said Sam Badiac, vice president of the company.

"It's hard to say how this year will be with the economy," he said. "We are hoping for the best."

Hauling the hot tubs to the fair not only creates a marketing opportunity for its exhibitors to display their products, Badiac said, but people actually buy spas on the spot.

"We had someone that lives 15 minutes from our factory in Fort Wayne come all the way to Indianapolis and buy a spa here," he said. "A huge 4-H fair is something people are drawn to."

Master Spas spent about $30,000 on sponsorship and merchandising for the fair, including $5,000 for renting the space and $4,000 in equipment to get the spas to Indy.

Top-quality spas cost $7,800 to $11,000 at the Royal Spa tent, according to Jeremy Westland, store manager for the Pendleton Pike location. Indianapolis-based Royal Spa has taken part in the fair for nearly 20 years.

"We do very well at the fair," Westland said. "It creates a frenzy with buyers."

Noblesville-based Recreation Unlimited also sells hot tub spas, as well as playground equipment, child-size log cabins and Goalrilla basketball goals. General Manager Heather Sink said her company made about $30,000 in sales at last year's fair, with hot tubs as the No. 1 seller.



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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.