Being a State Fair Exhibitor
It's the day after Labor Day. Fall is arriving, school is starting, and the State Fair has official come to a close. I hope everybody had an opportunity to enjoy The Great Minnesota Get-Together.
If you spent some time in the EcoExperience this year you likely noticed a new exhibit on sustainable polymers. As a research assistant I was involved in the Center for Sustainable Polymer's (CSP) effort to create this exhibit from scratch. I and everybody at the Center worked hard to put together this exhibit, and based on what I saw at the Fair all that work was worthwhile. With our success in mind, I would like to reflect on my involvement and consider what I learned:
Exhibits require a lot of coordination - Not the least of which is the coordination required between an exhibitor and Fair organizers. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is the lead organizer for the EcoExperience, and CSP had a number of meetings and communications with the MPCA. The MPCA provided immense help in designing and creating the exhibit, as well as guiding us though the process of being a State Fair exhibitor. Additionally, dozens of companies were contacted as potential and confirmed supporters of the exhibit. Many of these companies provided valuable information and materials for the exhibit. Looking back I firmly believe that the exhibit would not have been successful without the help of those supporting companies.
Making an exhibit is a lot of work - I fully underestimated how much time and effort it takes to put together an exhibit. Early planning for the exhibit started almost a year ago and a lot of time was spent on emails brainstorming and discussion exhibit ideas. Aside from all the planning, the above mentioned coordination also required a lot of work. During some periods, keeping up with all of that communication consumed all of my time on the exhibit (10/hrs a week.) Also, and importantly, I gained an understanding for the lag time that is a natural part of working with so many people. Many of our supporters and contacts have busy schedules and work within large organizations. Thus, I learned to be patient, as sometimes it takes a while for questions to get answered.
Companies want to help with exhibits - I often contacted companies and organizations with some trepidation, figuring they would not be interested in donating materials to our exhibit. However, in my dozens of calls, I was not once denied some form of assistance. Companies are often very interested in supporting an exhibit related to their industry because (and this is what I often forgot) everybody benefits from the massive exposure of the State Fair.
I would like to thank everybody at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy, the companies who donated materials and effort, and the professors and students of the Center for Sustainable Polymers who helped to make the sustainable polymers exhibit a huge success. It was exciting to see the exhibit come together and to give Minnesotans the opportunity to learn about this emerging field.