What’s your favorite part of state fairs? The livestock shows? The rides? The carnival games? Maybe the fair food? With as much as a fair has going on, it can be hard to remember that the original point of state fairs was to highlight the local ag industry.
Most of our clients, of course, don’t want the fair’s agricultural roots to be forgotten. But like we said, there’s a lot of competition for fairgoers’ attention. It can be hard to stand out.
The Colorado State Fair was determined not to let their state’s ag industry go unnoticed. After all, Colorado has a lot going on in the agricultural realm. They pulled out the stops with two big, colorful, eye-catching displays highlighting two particular Colorado specialties.
The Pueblo Chile Pepper Exhibit
New Mexico’s Hatch chiles may be more widely known. But along the Colorado-New Mexico border, there’s a fierce rivalry between Hatch chiles and Pueblo chiles. Pueblo chiles, grown in and around Colorado’s Pueblo County, benefit from the sunny, dry climate of southern Colorado. They turn out flavorful and hot, but not too hot — somewhere in between a jalapeño and cayenne pepper.
The Pueblo Chile Festival draws thousands of people to celebrate Pueblo chiles and enjoy fire-roasted chile peppers. To bring some of that celebration to the Colorado State Fair, the Fair committee commissioned us to create a unique display highlighting the Pueblo chile.
The first thing you’d notice about the display is the giant chile pepper sculpture sitting on top. We carved it and painted it a glossy dark green to resemble a real Pueblo chile, if it was several dozen times larger than life. Then, we created smaller displays for each of the exhibit’s four sides.
Two sides feature cubbyholes with life-size replicas of Pueblo chile peppers hidden inside. Kids can pretend to “pick” the peppers by pulling them out of the cubbyholes. Another interactive element, on another side, features flip-up doors that quiz people with fun facts about Pueblo chiles. And the last side features a realistic replica of a whole Pueblo chile plant, with peppers in various stages of ripening.
The Olathe Sweet Corn Exhibit
The Pueblo chile exhibit was eye-catching, but not tall. For their second exhibit, though, the Colorado State Fair went big — over six feet tall.
Olathe sweet corn might be on the opposite end of the taste spectrum from Pueblo chiles, but it’s just as famous in Colorado. Grown only in a mountainous region in the western part of the state, Olathe sweet corn is especially sweet, juicy, and tender. So tender, in fact, that it has to be picked by hand. And it isn’t just Coloradans who love it: Kroger ships Olathe corn to states around the country.
The Colorado State Fair wanted to have a life-size replica of a full-grown corn stalk be part of their exhibit. We obliged, setting the replica in another four-sided exhibit. Like the chile exhibit, two sides of the Olathe sweet corn exhibit feature cubbyholes with life-size replicas of the vegetable in question. Graphics of corn stalks make it easier for kids to pretend they’re harvesting the corn. And on the last side, another series of flip-up doors quizzes people about corn and its importance to Colorado.
Highlighting Local Ag at State Fairs
With these two unique displays, the Colorado State Fair was able to raise the profile of their state’s local specialties. Urban consumers who might never go to Pueblo or Olathe for the festivals still got to learn about what makes these crops special and why they’re important to Colorado.
So what about your region? Does your state or county have a special crop? Highlighting local agricultural treasures doesn’t have to be as elaborate as Colorado State Fair’s displays, of course. But it could be just the right strategy for getting non-farmers interested in the agricultural roots of your area.