FAIR CHANGE: New Ticket System For Purchases

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The Iowa State Fair is making changes to the way fairgoers pay for food, beverages, and attractions in 2014.

A cashless system is being implemented. Fair patrons will need to buy tickets that can then be redeemed for purchases at the fair.

The tickets will be sold in 50-cent increments at more than 150 booths throughout the fairgrounds. The tickets don't expire so if you don't use them all this year you can save them for next year.

Fair officials say they've been considering the change for years.

They say it will reduce robbery of fairgoers and employee theft and create a universal payment method across the fairgrounds.

"At the Bud tent, craft beer tent you’re already making that exchange for a ticket, now it will be uniform throughout the fairground,” says spokesperson Lori Chappell. “Yes it’s a change and change can be hard, we understand that, but we hope it’s a good change for everybody involved."

In a letter sent to partners of the Iowa State Fair, Concessions and Commercial Exhibits Director Mike Nye says other fairs using cashless systems have seen cash-savings and increased convenience. Those fairs, including the state fairs of Texas and Colorado, saw an increase in spending once fairgoers started buying tickets

Vendors are being urged to keep the prices they charged in 2013 and consider offering “value” items.

The change comes at no additional cost for vendors. The fair says it will pay all credit card processing fees.


  • Kc

    I call big brother babysitting! Uncle Sam is just want collect every tax penny of the vendors it can.. This is how they can babysit the mom and pop outfits lol! The almighty tax dollar is what they are really after.

    • T. Payne

      Darn strait! Not only am I not participating in this repugnant scheme, we’re boycotting the fair entirely this year because of it.

    • Eric

      KC what Gary slater is doing is makign sure the Fair get s theirs from the vendors, the Fair gets a cut off everything you buy in the fair and this is a way they can make sure they are collecting very dollar the vendors sell!!

      • Karen Loes Schilling

        just another way for the fair to make money … people go home all the time with extra tickets in their pockets – just think last year they had over 1 millon in attendance and if each person goes home with at least 1 ticket (my husband always has 3-4 left) that is $1 million in their pockets of our money….so not a convience – just a money maker for them – loss of time for us…

  • Diana

    This is stupid. What do you do with leftover tickets? What if I want something and don’t have enough tickets- I’d probably say forget it and now treck wherever you have to go to buy more tickets. Guess I’ll just bring my own food this year.

      • mrsmarkfb

        This was not mentioned in the article yesterday, so she was probably asking because it had not yet been addressed. The article has been updated.
        People are so rude.

  • BJ Hoffman

    What a hoax! Funny thing is that a large group of the food vendors are from out of state and after the fair take their $ out of state with them. Why not allow more Iowa vendors at the fair where the money will be spent? The hopes here is that fair goers will not be able to find a 1 ticket item and be stuck with a useless ticket, vendors will round prices up to the next whole dollar, and this will limit vendors from reporting cash sales.

  • Jim young

    I agree this is a way to track vendors to get their revenue. I hope you can redeem all unused tickets at the exit

  • Matt

    Not a fan of this idea. They have used it in Waterloo for the fair and it is a big mess. You always have 1 extra ticket that goes to waste. The impulse buys are gone because nobody will search for a ticket booth to buy that extra item. More reason to visit Adventureland and avoid the State Fair.

  • Guy

    well hell why dont we change the name of the great Iowa State Fair to get your ticket here fair if they do something like that i will stop going end of story

  • Brenda Entler

    Don’t like it at all. Will have to rethink going to the fair…this will end multi-generational family excursion

  • Denise Holt

    Dumbest thing I ever heard. Of course it’s so they can track vendor sales and make sure they are getting their “just” percent. Also, most folks will over purchase tickets and I’m betting they are not refundable. The Iowa State Fair will end up putting themselves out of business.

  • linda mattix

    This has got to be one of the most ridiculous ideas ever! So what they are saying is when you are standing there in 95 degree heat and your kids are whining I want a drink….you have to tell them ok honey but first we have to go to this ticket booth and stand in line to buy a ticket and then come back here and stand in line again to get your drink. Yep I can see that working! Not! I can see Adventurelands business picking right up though!

  • JRM

    As a few have said, can you refund unused tickets? My guess is “no” and hence the reason they’re doing this. More revenue.

    Fair collects all the money. Vendors turn in the tickets to get reimbursed. Obviously a large number of tickets will go unused and the fair makes that much more.

    And better security? I may be wrong, but when was the last time you heard of a vendor at the fair getting knocked over? Every state trooper and half of the DSM PD and county sheriffs are walking around there. That’s bogus.

  • Myessa

    This is a ridiculous idea. Teach Vendors how to prevent against theft from employees and patrons. We already suffer from prices, like $6 bottles of water, and now we’ll fall victim to the extra ticket or two issue. If they do tgos they better let you take your extra tickets at the end of the night and get cash for them, or reimburse your card.

  • Troy V

    To me, it’s about one thing and one thing only. The Fair Association getting their cut.
    Current process is for vendors to “tell” the fair how much they took in for revenue and “give” the fairgrounds their percentage. Easy for some of those vendors to “fudge the numbers”.
    By going to this system, if the vendors want to get their $$$, they have to turn in the tickets.
    Wouldn’t it be better for the vendors to go to a “cashless system” that allows all vendors to take credit or debit cards (most already did)?

  • aightball

    I love the State Fair but this might put a damper on things. We pay cash for everything there, safest way to do it. I can’t see the tickets being useful or easy at all. That place has gotten increasingly expensive for no more than you get. At least we don’t buy as much as some, but still. I see vendors losing money with this new system.

  • Diana

    I think it is stupid idea.. Because you don’t know how many tickets to buy and what everytime you want something have to go to ticket booth and get tickets… way waste of time….. I guess I wont be going to fair this year…. because of this…. just because other states are doing this why do we …..

  • Felicia

    Its going to be a huge inconvenience to everybody now. It will give more jobs for the fair for those 2 weeks its going on which is good. But it’s really annoying to have to wait in one line to just go and wait in another line. I live in Texas and liked going to Iowa state fair because they didn’t have that system. Now it looks like I will just choose my family vacation elsewhere in the year.

  • Jay

    This is the stupidest idea I’ve heard of. Who thinks these things up. The idea tat it has worked at other fairs is ludicrous. This is by far the greatest fair ever! Why mess with a good thing-also if they want lower food prices , they should lower the rental prices for vendors!

    • Eric

      You can Thank Gary Slater the “CEO ” of the fair. Marion Lucas was never the “CEO” he was the fair manager as a title. Gary Bankrupt the Missouri Fair and will do the same here, this is not Texas I have been to that fair. all it is is a commerncial show case it has nothing to do with land stewardship which is why we have fairs!!!

  • Jenny

    Not one positive comment about this and I completely see why. I’m at my whits end with the fair anyway- hot, smelly, long lines, grumpy people cuz it’s hot, smelly, and they have to wait in line… and go broke. Nah, this idea stinks too.

  • Phil

    I emailed the fair last year and told them our multi-generational family might end next year with my family. This may seal the deal. Prices are already outrageous and this will not help anyone (but the fair’s bottom line). Bye, Bye Iowa State Fair.

  • Concerned Consumer

    And will I be able to redeem my tickets for dollars at the end of the day? or will I just have to eat the money? lord knows they are going to sell them in chunks so you won’t be able to buy JUST one ticket.. and then your going to be walking round trying to find one person that needs one ticket.. this is about as dumb as our new healthcare laws..

  • Chuck

    I tried to see the positive in doing this. It’ll be simpler for the vendors because there’s going to be fewer people at the fair. I think your fair board needs to get more in tune with the fair goers. It will be a disaster!!

  • Debbie

    This is the most ridiculous idea I have heard of from the fair yet. You are driving your faithful fair goers away with this stupidity. What are ya thinking, more profit for you???? The consumer again will get screwed in the long run. another reason to avoid the Iowa State Fair just more costs involved each year. You are ruining the fair!!! Keep it up and I hope 4 people show up and you lose you tail.

  • Don

    Iowa State Fair is not the same thing as Texas and Colorado. At least it hasn’t been in the past. Keep our loyalty with honest Iowans. I’m not real fond of the idea as you can tell. Maybe more information will change my mind but doubtful.

  • Puddin Tame

    So far, it sounds like “The Fair” will go forward with this silly (to fair-goers) idea – “Because we said so!” Typical government strategy.

  • Becky

    I think will be a bigger hassle than they realize. We don’t go to the fair every year, but this definitely will be a major decision maker this year. Can’t afford to waste money or tickets these days.

  • john

    what if you like to drink the root beer? that is $2.50 . will they give you a ticket for the difference? or will the up all the prices and round it off ? joke fair get over rated every year. and cost more for the same old stuff

  • LA

    This is a ridiculous idea! I’m going to think twice about going to the fair. I usually go more than once and will be goning only once this year. And I hate the idea of having to stand in line TWICE for the same purchase. So will there be booths to buy back my unused tickets? Very BAD IDEA ISF?

  • melody

    I usually spend around 600 to 900 at the fair most purchases impulse why would they think this is going to be good now you have to wait in line for tickets then food or whatever else and what if you buy to many tickets or not enough

  • Joe

    If the fair board wants to improve the fair experience then ban smoking, this is a goofy gestapo type idea, now I remember why I’m a libertarian

  • BJ Hoffman

    How about the fact that 25 of the 97 food booth owners are from out of state? Or how about the fact that your last name can get you a food spot, like Cownie, Hensley, Kirke, or Cambell? Sending money out of state and to those with a famous last name is ridiculous!

  • Kate

    I think it a huge hassle and u are going to see fair attendance drop because of it. You won’t see my family there and we r ones that normally spend the whole week out there

  • Amanda

    This is the stupidest idea that the Iowa State Fair has come up with to date. They must have idiots running the show. It’s all about them and their dollar instead of the people of Iowa. It’s going to destroy the Iowa State Fair we have all known. I think it’s time to start visiting the Minnesota State Fair. I have relatives up their and they love it. I think they need to get new management at our fair.

  • Mark

    Ridiculous! All it is, is a way to track vendor sales so the fair gets even more money. So a family wants something to eat, doesn’t have enough tickets and has to leave the line to go get more? I attended just for the food but no longer. It literally costs at least $100 to just park, pay admission to get in, and get something to eat the way it is was. This will cause vendors to raise their prices even higher than they are now which are insanely high. If people could only see the Fair isn’t for fun anymore, it’s all about the rich getting richer. Don’t contribute and don’t be a part of it by attending. I’ll be passing the fair for sure this year.

  • Gregg Curtis

    THEY (State Fair) know what they are doing….No refunds on tickets more revenue for the already boring same ole state fair so they can afford a new “Bobo” the clown on an already declining trend of visitors…this country thinks we are dumb and stupid if we don’t boycott this mess they only get what they want….hahahaha theft ? I’ve never heard of a vendor getting robbed. I think Obama has just a tiny tiny tiny bit more security than the a iowa state fair get outta here with your bogus crap!!!!

  • KB

    I think this is a great idea. The ATMs are just as much of a headache. The carnival rides have been using this model for a long time, it seems to work well.

  • Jodi

    Why must they mess with a good thing? Oh, that’s right Mr. Slater has destroyed more than one state fair during his career. So, he thinks that he needs to add yet another one to the list.

    He’s a joke. Guess I won’t be breaking the bank as I usually do when I go to the fair. Yeah, me! Sorry, vendors.

  • Sean

    The policy is not to make things smoother and easier for the customer, rather to maintain complete control by the fair administration. I’m as big a fan of any when it comes to fried anything, but I think that this “carnival” tactic will be just enough to keep me from the fair gets in 2014. Big thumbs down.

  • Jim

    Jodi you are very right on Mr. Slater they got rid of him at the Missouri State Fair! The Missouri state fair also hired one of the best managers that made our state fair great Mr. Lucas. Sounds like that micro manager don’t trust any of his vendors heck for that matter he don’t trust much of his staff from what I’ve heard. Maybe if he got out of his office and went outside during the fair he might get to know some of the people. Doubt that ever happens either. Hopefully this fair board wakes up before he runs it into the ground! To bad the Fair board don’t bring back someone like Mr. Lucas or him personally.

  • Conni Gause

    I understand why they want to do this, but 50 cent tickets are as much of a hassle and vulnerable to carry around as cash. Thieves will steal any form of monetary exchange and resale tickets to fair goers who are tired of standing in line. I wonder if a prepaid card wouldn’t be easier and safer to carry. Customers could just swipe their card at the booths. They could even refill their cards online on their mobile phone if they are running low and want to avoid waiting in line. You can also have stations around the fair to refill a card if mobile access is not an option for you.

  • David Kellis

    It seems as if all of the non-profits and charities are learning too much from big business. They are always looking for ways to make more money, without providing additional value. The Fair will cash-in on the margin of every lost, destroyed or forgotten ticket. 100% profit. I have heard no positive comments, from customers, just from the Fair management.

  • Robert Pingel

    This is a joke. I have been going to the fair since I was 5 years old. Looks like 2013 was my last year since they want to do this crap. I’ll go to Minnesota State Fair for now on

  • Jonathan Duteau

    Why don’t we all just put microchips in our hands and have our credits transferred from cash to the microchip…that would be safer yet….hmmm, for you bible educated folk, we could call it the mark of the beast!!! Just saying the book of revelation prophecies at at hand, pardon the pun.
    Yeah, I went there!!!

  • G. Walker

    The Iowa State Fair says buying and using tickets at the state fair will cut down on robberies. Who’s to say robbers won’t rob people of their tickets. Also, if someone has leftover tickets, the tickets won’t expire. The state fair will have the cash while the tickets will not have any cash value.
    So who comes out ahead? What if someone can’t make it to the state fair the following year? What if someone from out-of-state can’t make to the state fair the following year? People should have the opportunity to cash in their leftover tickets otherwise the state fair will be like the carnivals.

  • Eric

    Here is who is on the board of directors http://www.iowastatefair.org/about-us/board-members/

    Got to thank the Mustashe, Gov Terry Brandstand!! head clown in charge!!

    the best part is the Fair is to chicken to post this great idea on their own website (LOL) I have work 20years as a security person at for the grandstand shows and am really thinking I will not be back. Gary Slater is the most over bearing, worthless, unapperciative person I have ever know!!

  • virgil

    Count out another central Iowa family from going this year, also the fair must be going for a new record, THE LEAST ATTENDED STATE FAIR

  • Mike Cee

    What an stupid idea.

    Not only are the tickets available in 50 cent increments, but there is no refund on unused tickets. Sure, they may be valid for next year, but who wants to hang on to tickets for a year just to try to use them?

    I haven’t been impressed with the fair the last few years, especially with the overpriced, overcrowded venue it has become. This simply adds to the cost, and quite frankly my entertainment dollars will be spent elsewhere.

  • g. walker

    Ladies and gentlemen, let me explain why I believe the state came up with a scheme to have fair goers purchase tickets to be used to purchase products from the vendor. It has nothing to do with less robberies and or less inconvienence for the fair goer. It has to do with the state and the vendors.
    I assume the vendor had to turn in all cash receipts at the end of the day to the state so the state would get its share or cut of the sales. If the vendor decided not to turn in all cash receipts, the state would be out of its share of the non-reported cash receipts.
    Now the vendor would have to turn in all his or her tickets in order for the vendor to get his or her share of the sales. Thus, no cheating with the state.
    If you over buy tickets and you go home with a handful of tickets, can you deposit those tickets in your bank? NO! Can you use those tickets buy groceries? NO! If you lose your tickets, will the state re-imburse you? NO! Guess who gets the shaft?
    By the way, the state has your money up front. You have tickets that are worthless for a whole year. Instead of being called the Iowa State fair, it should be called the Iowa State Carnival.

  • Hugo S LaVia

    Value items? Hey, Ia State Fair, since you’re on county property, how about free admission for Polk Co taxpayers? I promise I’ll spend the difference on beer or other healthy food items.

  • Curt Hauser

    my biggest problem is the bottlenecks. This is already a problem at the fair. You already have to wait 5-10 minutes at alot of the more popular stands. Now they are going to funnel everyone through even fewer spots to get tickets! I will deff eat before going and bring my own water.

  • fair exhibitor

    Do you all realize the cost for those who exhibit livestock? It is outrageous- most people think we exhibit for free but the truth is it is easy to wrap up over $1000.00 by the time you pay for your animal entries, bedding fees, entry fees for yourself or family, parking permits, and if you so chose to camp. It is a common misconception the animals and exhibits are there for free. Ticket idea for those who exhibit to purchase things on the grounds does not sound like much fun. . .

    • Puddin Tame

      Um, Jerry? Where do you think the vendors get the money to pay the tax? From the sound of everyone making comments here, the ‘ticket’ idea will prevent people from attending the fair. Fewer people, fewer people buying vendor food. Less vendor food sold, less tax goes to the fair. Generally speaking, How would you make up the difference, raise prices? At what point then, Jerry, would you – as the customer – say “the hell with this! I’ll not go to the fair!” Are you willing to pay 7-10 dollars (14-20 tickets) for a small root beer?

  • E. D. Swanson

    Ok, prices are all ready high. So now, everything has to be priced in 50 cent increments. If water was $3.25 a bottle , will it go down to $3.00 ? No it will go up to $3.50.. I think we know the answer.. What a rip off. No competition. Everyone has profit built in.

  • Stacia Parker

    This is NOT a good idea for us! We have a family of 4 and we all want to eat different things. First, we will have to visit each vendor, add the prices up, go buy tickets for it, then go back to the vendor for purchase. I have a feeling we’ll be eating less at the fair this year.

    • T. Payne

      Let’s not forget that you can’t buy 1 ticket. You’ll most likely have to buy at least 20 tickets, and now you have to keep separate from everything else. And what about the people selling their “left over” tickets at a discount. Can’t say I wouldn’t jump on the chance to save 40% on a few tickets . . . IF I were to go to the fair, WHICH I will NOT do with this implementation in place.

  • kimvandell@yahoo.com

    I saw in the Des Moines Register that tickets are purchased with debit or credit cards, nothing about being able to purchase with cash. Did not see that included in your article?? Might want to check into that and include in your reporting so everybody is aware of that. Using a debit or credit card is not an option for everybody and not sure lot of people will like that idea if that is true.

  • Julie

    The reasons given for the change are not valid. Thieves can steal tickets from fairgoers and vendors just as easily as money. Bad idea unless they really have a hidden agenda that makes more sense.

  • Andy

    How do we get rid of these people making these big changes. Isn’t it “our State Fair”. These people running these boards are all taking care of there buddies. Lets go over there head and get rid of the whole lot.

    • T. Payne

      Nothing is “ours”, we are literally slaves of the state. They own our time (tax, SSN, permission to work), they own our thoughts (IP, political speech), they own our bodies (FDA, obamacare, forced inoculations, stolen blood and DNA arbitrarily at “check points”, drugs), heck, they own our very breath (global warming, carbon tax).

      I hate to break it to you, but until you exercise your rights, you have none. And having a monopoly of force, the state will use all means, including inflicting death, to prevent you from reclaiming your rights.

  • g.walker

    Ladies and gentlemen be advised and from what I understand, the booths selling the tickets for the Iowa State Carnival (fair)will not accept cash for the tickets. Instead you will be forced to use a debit or credit card which is one step closer to a cashless society the feds and states are trying to implement. Won’t those people coming in from out-of-state be surprised when they find out the fair will not accept cash.

  • Brian

    So, I stand in line for 20 minutes to buy food. Realize I am 3 tickets short, so I have to get out of line to go get more tickets and lose my spot in line. How stupid.
    How will you prevent theft? If I don’t have cash in my pocket people will just steal my tickets.
    If you aren’t getting what you think you should be getting from vendors just charge them more or stop being so greedy.

  • Lyss

    They could use an electronic style of system, similar to Incredible Pizza, a pre-paid debit that only works at the fair and has no expiration. You could pay in advance online and refill throughout the fair with cell phones. It would supplement the cash method, reducing the amount of cash in and around the fair, avoid lines of the paper ticket method as well as the massive amount of tickets required for large families to carry around.

  • Tax Happy FairBoard

    Colorado tried it and lost 25% admission. They just want more taxes to pay for all the new buildings we didn’t need. The fair is getting close to the same experience as going to the mall. Sorry, but I voting “Are you Crazy!” – Dug~

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