Ayres receives special fairs award

At a recent annual convention of the Western Fairs Association held at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., Janice R. Ayres was given a special award.

She was honored for 20 years of dedicated service to the fair industry and WFA in particular for her many contributions to upgrading the fair industry in innovative marketing.

"I'm thinking of putting it on the ceiling," Ayers said. That's the only space I've got."

Ayres, executive director of the Nevada Rural Counties RSVP Program, worked with volunteers to establish the first Carson City County Fair in 1980 held at Mills Park.

The city was then in the process of converting a nine-hole golf course into Mills Park. Carson City has never had a county fair, and it was well received by the community.

RSVP remained active in the Capital City Fair through 1987 when the Capital City Fair Board took control for the event. The fair ceased operation in 1993.

In 1988, RSVP began a series of mini-fairs in Mills Park beginning with the RSVP Spring Fun Fair along with the Nevada Day celebrations beginning in 1989 and the Fourth of July Cavalcade of Spectaculars in 1993.

"Getting participation is more difficult because there is so much out there for people to do today," she said. "In a small town, people just live for the fair. In my era, there wasn't any TV so when the fair came to town, boy that was the thing to do. They are still very much steeped in tradition."

She said wants to make sure all her fairs are affordable to draw all sorts of people.

"People come to the fair looking for a good time," she said. "People still like the rides, the food, the junk ... people flock to big outdoor events."

Ayres said she was honored to receive the award from the association.

"It's kind of nice that they remember that somebody tried to do some things that helped fairs and carnivals have a better day," she said. "I do all my own marketing and public relations, my own ads and TV spots."

The hardest part about putting on a fair is getting people to attend.

Nevada Rural Counties RSVP also holds mini-fairs in Elko, White Pine County and Lincoln County. Last year RSVP held seven mini-fairs lasting five days each.

Ayres has been a presenter at many WFA conventions giving small fair representatives ideas on marketing fairs on small budgets.

"Like anybody, we need some pats on the head and somebody to affirm we're doing a good job. It's such a big association with thousands of members To give it to a little peon like me makes me feel like I'm doing a good job with my fairs."

Ayres received an award from the American Marketing Association in 1996 for her marketing of the Fourth of July Cavalcade of Spectaculars and also received the Gold Spike Award that same year from the Public Relations Society of America for her 33 years as a member and an outstanding public relations professional.

Ayres founded the first chapter of the Public Relations Society of America in Nevada in 1974 with six members and became its first president. Today there are chapters all over Nevada with hundreds of members.

Ayres belongs to the Reno chapter but is working on developing a rural chapter to meet in Carson City.

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