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Cashless Midway Debuts at Miami Fair

Wednesday, April 26, 2017   (0 Comments)

Magic Money LLC introduced RFID wristbands, management software at the Dade County fair

by Linda Deckard | Published: April 26, 2017 | Venues Today

A cashless midway, using a new Magic Money LLC RFID (radio frequency identification) chip and software management system on rides and games, was a first for the  Miami-Dade County Youth Fair March 23–April 16.

While attendance was down five percent, from 613,000 to 582,000 in 21 days (closed Mondays and Tuesdays), per cap spending on food and drink was up. Next year, during the March 15-April 8, 2018 event, Magic Money will expand to include food and drink, said Bob Hohenstein, fair manager.

As to the dip in attendance, the veteran theme park, waterpark and fair manager did not point fingers, eschewing the usual weather excuse. “I feel good about the product and services and the interaction with our guests. It was a great fair and a safe fair,” Hohenstein said. “We’ll see what happened when we do an analysis of the financials.”

The major change this year was introduction of prepaid wristbands for use on rides and games. Hohenstein contracted with Brett Enright’s Magic Money LLC to launch the concept, which was then presented to attendees at the Mid-West Fairs Association meeting, which met in Miami and visited this fair.

Enright said he will be announcing several more major fair and festival contracts soon. This was the big debut and was a huge success, he said, with 3.5 million individual scans and 300,000 riders during the fair.

Rides and games were provided by North American Midway Entertainment, which will be involved on the task force considering plans for next year’s fair. Hohenstein said the Magic Money program will probably be expanded to include food, possibly admissions.

“The young people thought the wristbands were cool, a status symbol,” Hohenstein said. Technology today dictates fairs move ahead with innovations like this and the public is educated and ready. The fair set up a large temporary structure to sell wristbands at the front gate and deployed 29 ticket booths throughout the grounds.

Questions or issues were fielded by guest relations. “It’s a guest relations opportunity,” Hohenstein said, quoting from his theme park background.

For fair and carnival management, the cloud-based system resulted in real-time data on sales and trends and customers. “The ride company was checking it constantly,” Hohenstein said. “We will continue to work with Brett to make it more and more user friendly.”

Enright pointed out that Magic Money is event management software able to encompass the front gate, access control, food and beverage, and rides and games. It also includes the “first ever ride safety software, Safe Riders,” Enright said. Built into the system is a feature that required a ride had been signed off on its daily safety inspection before any tickets could be scanned. All 98 rides on the N.A.M.E. midway had the Safe Riders feature, one way Enright is customizing Magic Money for the fairs and festivals industry.

It also gave people the ability to reload in line and to use the app to manage credit, he said. It captured an email list of guests. Many more features are in development. Enright likes to think of the old systems at home phones, Magic Money as the iPhone. The concessionaire (he owns Juicy’s) and entrepreneur has been working on Magic Money for four years. “We are always looking for a better way to play and pay at festivals.”

The world is fast becoming a cashless society and this is a natural progression in customer service, in Enright’s opinion. He pointed to Carnival Cruise Lines and the Walt Disney Co., noting cashless systems are nothing new. To those with questions, like ‘what about the customer who loads more money than he spends?’ Enright responds, “What do you do now with the customer who didn’t use his tickets and the fair is over? He has five tickets on his dresser.” Fair policy does not change to accommodate Magic Money.

As to using Magic Money on food and drink, considering the cost increments and taxes, Enright points to the State Fair of Texas, Dallas, which has a cashless food, rides and drinks system and makes $50 million on food and beverage alone – all bought with coupons. “We didn’t create the model, but we designed it for fairs and events,” Enright said.

The per cap on food and drink (without Magic Money) was up 38 cents to $15.59, Hohenstein said. Admission sales through partner Sedano’s Supermarkets, was up 3 percent. Sedano’s caters to the Latin consumer. “Sedano’s gets it,” Hohenstein said.

Food per caps were up 38 cents to $15.59.

New food offerings included the Alaskan Soda Jerk, a stand that was themed like an old-time soda shop at your local drugstore in the Fifties, selling root beer floats and orange fizzes. There were 12 new food items overall.

Admission was $14 online, $10 through Sedano’s, and $14 at the fair. Ride tickets through Magic Money ranged from a high of $1.50 per for one coupon to a book of 55 for $60.

The fair has a longstanding program where every Pre-K-12th grade student in Dade County schools is given one free ticket, the “drag along” system. Hohenstein said that historically, 70 percent of attendance is paid, 30 percent is VIP or complimentary.

Per tradition, the fair booked four major shows. Opening night’s A Tribute to Juan Gabriel with Carlos Daniels was rained out. Jacob Forever was the best attended show. Jay Alvarez and Skillet also drew well. For 2018, the fair is looking at possibly refurbishing the grandstand, allowing them to take more risks and book more shows, possibly including a ticket price.

In Hohenstein’s dreams, there could be some sort of block booking with the South Florida Fair, West Palm Beach, Florida State Fair, Tampa and Strawberry Festival, Plant City, guaranteeing an artist four solid dates over a three month period. Hohenstein recognizes there are unique market aspects not suitable to every act, but if it could reduce costs and benefit the artist as well, he’d like to see it happen.

As to longtime talk of moving the fair to allow Florida International University to take over the current 86-acre plot, Hohenstein said conversation has halted. The university and county don’t have the $250 million such a relocation would cost and the availability of land with parking for 14,000 vehicles on an adjacent basis is scarce. No money, no site to move to, case closed since late October, he said.