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ASU event management students learn from organizers at the Arizona State Fair

People walk the midway at the Arizona State Fair

ASU students in the Special Event Management program tour the midway at the Arizona State Fair on Thursday. They spent time discussing concessions, merchandising, crowd control and more. Photo by Michelle Oldfield

October 18, 2019

As temperatures start to cool off, the bright lights of the Ferris wheel illuminate the Phoenix sky and customers line up to taste the year’s hottest culinary trend (the hot Cheetos pickle), it can only mean one thing: It’s time for the Arizona State Fair.

Students in the Special Event Management program at Arizona State University look forward to this annual tradition, where they are treated to a behind-the-scenes tour and discover how multiple event components come together to successfully execute this 23-day event.

On Thursday, 75 aspiring event management professionals turned the fairground into their classroom and learned about box office operations, concessions, exhibitors, sponsorship, entertainment, marketing, media, safety and security — all elements that they discuss throughout the semester and have the opportunity to witness firsthand during this site visit.

The tour was led by Evelyn Bader, a recent alum who now serves as an event specialist for the Arizona Exposition and State Fair.

“It’s great for students to witness the inner workings because the fair is the largest consecutive event happening in Arizona,” Bader said. “It truly takes a village, and I think it is important for students to see all of the hard work that goes into it.”

In fact, festival organizers told the group that 1,000 people work the fair each year including parking attendants, entertainment runners, security guards and box office attendants.

“I was impressed by the amount of different people and how they work together,” PRM 427 (Revenue Generation for Special Event Management) student A.J. Brems commented.

Students were led to the VIP areas, through the midway, backstage of the Trace Adkins concert, into the green room and into the exhibition barn. Along the way, students interacted with several of the fair organizers while learning about their backgrounds, roles and why they enjoy their jobs.

“Touring all aspects of the fair and meeting a representative from each area was really helpful in understanding how the event comes together,” said Hiclay Holguin, a student in PRM 486 (Introduction to Special Event Management).

At the conclusion of the site visit, students were asked to complete an assignment based on their observations and were able to enjoy the fair for the remainder of the evening.

The Special Event Management program, part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, offers students with an interest in working in the special event industry an opportunity to learn fundamental principals of producing a wide range of events including concerts, festivals, weddings, conventions, sporting events and more. Students can pursue a minor that ties their degree into event management or the six-credit certificate to add to their degree, which will put them at a competitive advantage entering the workforce.

“Our courses are experiential — yes, we spend time discussing fundamentals inside the classroom, but we pride ourselves on the hands-on experiences our students are developing outside of the classroom,” clinical assistant professor Erin Schneiderman explains. “Students will take several visits throughout the community, hear from experts and have several opportunities to develop their own events and volunteer in areas that interest them. Our ultimate goal is to place students in the event industry who have experience and can make an immediate impact!”

Find more information on this program online.