This article is from my time as Editor and Sales Manager of a horse paper. I am guessing by the title, that the publisher of the magazine may have seen Billy Crystal's movie, City Slickers.
Minnesota State Fair is an Opportunity to Introduce "City Slickers" to Horses
To most "city slickers" attending the Minnesota State Fair is an experience of gorging on mini-donuts, corn dogs, cotton candy, snow cones and salt water taffy. Within their limited experiences, these people visit what they feel are the main attractions: the Midway, Grandstand shows, the Haunted Mansion, and the Minnesota Purebred Dog Breeders exhibit. As horsemen, we need to show the "city clickers" where the real action is...at the Coliseum and in the Horse Barn.
While roaming around the fairgrounds, it was amazing how many spectators rarely left their home bases to venture out into the "unknown" realms.
For teenagers, the comfort and security of the Midway seemed to be all they needed or wanted. Knowledge that their parents won't interfere with the atmosphere provided by the side show barkers made them content. The Senior Citizens found solace in the Creative Arts Building -- with plenty of benches for resting and socializing. Parents of young children spent their time watching as the Kiddies Carnival provided some rest from a hectic schedule. The older "horse crazed" children spent their entire day begging Mom and Dad to go to the horse shows, and once there, found it is the only reason to attend the State Fair -- to see the beautiful animals and compete with each other. These are the "incurable romantics" that we hear about, and they are the lifeblood of our horse industry.
The bolder fair attendees that ventured beyond their familiar habitats were seen marvelling at "horses in high heels" and "baby horses being forced to pull carts," (In actuality, they were seeing Saddlebred pleasure horses and Roadster Ponies.) It is unfortunate that their ventures did not take them into the show arena or the horse barn to ask why these animals appear the way they do. As horsemen providing entertainment, we need to educate the "city slicker" about our industry, so they will take away an understanding that may develop into a passion.
A passable amount of this basic information is provided in the actual Horse Show Program, but many of these potential enthusiasts will never venture into the Coliseum to learn about our sport.
It is up to us as horsemen concerned about the future of our sport to indoctrinate these casual onlookers by providing informative brochures and flyers to assist in the learning process. One group that does an excellent job is the Saddlebred Association. Their brochures are informative, easy to follow and "beg" to be picked up with titles like, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Saddlebred Horses...But Were Afraid to Ask."
It is pamphlets like this, and publications like ours, that develop interest in our sport, but it is up to us as individuals and groups to concentrate on marketing ourselves to the public. The Minnesota State Fair is an excellent vehicle for accomplishing this. The Minnesota State Fair is the fourth largest attended fair in the country. Where else does the Minnesota horse industry have access to over 80,000 people per day, wanting to be entertained?
Our State Fair classes have changed and modified over the years, but consistently we are drawing horses from Minnesota and surrounding areas. This is proof that there is still an interest on both our part and that of a major entertainer, (the Minnesota State Fair) to provide both healthy competition and entertainment to the general public.
The "City Slickers" provide us with an opportunity to educate and encourage participation in the equestrian world from a fresh, new group of people not all ready involved in the horse industry. This group gives our industry the opportunities to expand and grow. It is very logical that we, as horsemen, should take the time to encourage their interest, and help them learn how to get involved in our sport. It helps our industry, and we expand the number of people involved in our wonderful sport.
Image from: http://www.mnstatefair.org/MSF_Photos/Horse_Girl.jpg