Exhibitor Registration, Data Management, and Reporting Solution
The Indiana State Fair’s annual celebration is one of the largest in the United States. For over two weeks in 2015, the Fair attracted nearly a million fairgoers and hosted 45,000 exhibits and over 12,000 exhibitors. Family-friendly exhibits range from jousting and rodeo events to 4-H shows and food competitions, with many winners receiving monetary awards. Events vary in scale and span for profit and charitable organizations.
Before 2015, a process for exhibitor registration was in place. Unfortunately, it relied heavily on manual labor. Many exhibitors and contest participants registering annually, had grown to capacities that could no longer be sufficiently supported by staff. The Indiana State Fair struggled with a complicated, inadequate management and reporting system.
The window of time for exhibitors to register for the Indiana State Fair was brief, and the staff was working with mostly manual registration and payment processes. Registering by paper left the entry staff bogged down with customer inquiries due to a confusing system that led to errors during registration. The manual methods also rendered copious amounts of data for review by entry staff members on a tight deadline.
Although the State Fair staff knew that their system was inefficient, they were uncertain of how best to solve their problem. To ensure accurate discovery of underlying causes, Connect Think’s team of experienced business analysts and senior developers spent time onsite at the Indiana State Fairgrounds before, during, and after the commencement of the 2014 State Fair. Having a first-hand account of the tribulations faced daily by State Fair staff, allowed our team to develop a plan for a secure and high-functioning registration process. To provide up to the minute service and avoid system downtime, Connect Think continues the hands-on approach with frequent in-person communications with staff throughout the intricate annual event.
After discovery and project planning phases, it was determined that adding features to the process already in place would not be sufficient in solving the problems the State Fair staff was facing. Connect Think’s team of experienced developers and project managers proposed creating a new system that would be customized explicitly for the new registration process implemented for the 2015 Indiana State Fair.
Enter Exhibitor’s Corner
Implementing an extensive technology stack including Ruby on Rails (built on Heroku), PostgreSQL, and PureCSS, Connect Think developed Exhibitor’s Corner for the Indiana State Fair. Exhibitor’s Corner is a customized, comprehensive web-based software solution for online registration, check-ins, competition placement, and premiums. Exhibitors, Department Staff, and Administrators all have access to the appropriate information to plan their show, run reports, and classify information from anywhere, on or off-site.
To provide Fair registrants with superior services, Connect Think developed an online registration system that provided exhibitor account creation capabilities and an expedited online registration portal for each participant. By implementing a new centralized database with automation of registration and payment systems for competitions and exhibitors, State Fair staff were relieved of constant management of the new participant process.
Added functionality for check-ins enabled State Fair department users to check-in exhibitors and animals on the day of their particular competition. For increased organization purposes, separate department classes were created based on confirmed exhibitors who had already been through the check-in process. Upon automated check-in, staff department users were able to pull Department reports and show programs quickly utilizing auto-population through custom database functionality. Department staff was able to track participant placement in each competition using the check-in and reporting functionality.
Premiums issued upon final competition results were automatically calculated, and exhibitors were able to view final placing and any premiums they would receive. The solution also provided complete integration with the Fair’s financial system, allowing checks to be issued seamlessly, with little to no staff interaction. Upon completion of the premium issue process, data from the most recent state fair is archived for use for future events.
Additionally, Exhibitor’s Corner provides collection and reporting of Judge final decisions automatically, providing more accurate, instantaneous results. It is a scalable solution for annual use, and Connect Think provides support, often on-site, year-round.
Connect Think developed an efficient and accessible registration web solution that organizes data for all departments, divisions, and classes along with department and fair level fees. The custom solution, Exhibitor’s Corner, has open registration for multiple categories of exhibitions, accepts and tracks payments, organizes entries into classes, process check-ins and entry information, registers daily entries, provides accurate reporting, and winner payout process. Using Exhibitor’s Corner, the Indiana State Fair continues to grow and change and each year the number of fairgoers, exhibitors, and competitions increase. The robust custom entry and registration solution allows for expansion without requiring unnecessary manual processes or data entry. Indiana State Fair entry staff now has software that allows them to operate with ease during their busiest time of year.