Holding A Bird Fair, Expo, Mart Or Show

So you want to hold a bird show, expo, mart or fair. I have helped put on a number of these events for my bird clubs. My previous article Holding A Bird Show covered a number of important issues in holding a bird show. This article covers my experiences with several additional areas that need to be addressed.


Securing a well known speaker can attract many spectators to your show. In the past, I’ve had such speakers as Liz Wilson, Parrot Behavioral Consultant, Dr. Linda Pesek, Avian Vet and Ken Force of The World Parrot Trust to name a few.

The size of your budget can be a determining factor in your choices. I was lucky enough to have many of my guest speakers live in the area. Some of them were happy to speak at our event in exchange for a year’s membership in our club and a year’s free advertising. Other speakers have no other choice except to charge for gas, tolls, and lodging. Many times the host club will have to pay for two nights lodging, if the speaker arrives the previous night and might want to rest after the show, with a fresh ride home, the following day. Or the fee might involve the cost of airline tickets and the cost of the ride to and from the airport.

Also remember to secure your speakers as much as 18 months in advance. Popular speakers are hired well in advance and you must never delay in contacting them.

Try to vary speakers from year to year. Also try not to get a speaker who has been at a recent nearby event. You want someone as famous as possible and someone who can speak on a topic of major interest. Then publicize the speaker and the topic. This will help draw attendees to your event.

Admission Fees

You need to cover all the costs of the event in some manner and hopefully even make a profit. There are a number of ways to recover these costs – admission fees, raffles, vendor tables, etc. Once you have an idea of what you will include in your event, the estimated costs and where the income can come from, you can decide upon the admission fee, if any.

As Show Manager, I set a cost for entry to our event of $5 per person. Since our event included a bird show with judging, this entitled the payee to watch the show and enter the bird sale and vendor room. To cover the extra cost of the speaker, one year I charged an additional $1.

At some events, there is a separate fee charged for attending the seminar. While many of those who travel the show bird circuit would enjoy hearing a speaker, if there is also a bird show going on at the same time, they are often up watching their birds being judged. Or they may have attended another event where they heard this speaker. So my answer to that is to raise the cost of the general admission and keep the seminars free of cost. Another benefit of this is that the cost of the speaker is spread acroos all the attendees and not just those who pay for the speaker. It will result in more people at the seminars.

Vendor Tables

Having many vendors can make or break your show. My theory was that you needed enough vendors to cover the cost of the hall rental, which in my case was $2850 for a one day show, which included 9 hours set up time the evening before the show.

The one thing I had in my favor was that I was involved in a club that had a good following, so vendors were contacting us for a spot. But if you’re just starting out, you can start a vendor mailout by contacting sellers that you might have seen at local street fairs, or vendors in magazines such as Bird Talk. My Co- Show Manager, used to travel the show circuit frequently, thus obtaining many business cards and mailing information to all contacts.

Again, this is something that you want to do at least 6 months prior to your show date. Vendors pick where they choose to sell according to location, popularity, previous successes and time of the year. Many shows are held on specific dates each year, such as the third weekend of September, as ours was. So if there are two shows on the same weekend, that particular vendor might be faithful to a show that he had always attended in the past.

Have an idea of how many people you expect to attend your event. Many vendors will ask and use this information to decide if it is worthwile for them to come or not.

I have found that having a hospitality room is a must. When you have traveled 6 hours, after loading and unloading hundreds of pounds of toys and food and feeding livestock, it is so nice to have a snack waiting for you. It doesn’t have to be much. Bagels, rolls, chips and soda are a welcome site for a weary traveler, who may not have time to stop along the way in a rush to arrive to properly set up his wares. Since many vendors travel from afar, you might also want to include maps and local motels that are in the area of the show. Make sure that you personally, have spoken to the motel manager, obtaining a name and confirmation in writing, and making sure they allow birds in the room, if vendors are selling babies.

You can offer and charge extra for electricity and corner spaces. I used to charge $60 for a 10 x 10 ft space, which would include a table. $10 was charged for the use of electricity. A corner space cost $85, with an early bird special saving the vendor $10. You want to offer this special for several reasons. Everyone likes to feel special and by saving right off the bat, it’s a plus. Also table placement was on a first come, first served basis.

This also gives you an idea of how many tables you might sell , early in the year. Many vendors used to contact me, before the flyers had even been printed, wanting their usual location. If you treat the vendors well, you gain a good reputation. Don’t scrimp on costs. A few extra bucks will help you put on a good presentation.

If you have a small show with a limited number of attendees, try getting local business to take tables and charge less for a table. Your expenses should also be less.

Fun Category Bird Show

One ideas that was quite successful was a fun show for the birds who weren’t quite show material. I charged $2 for the lst bird and $1 for each entrant thereafter. It must be made clear to all entrants that any birds entered in the main show (if you are having one) are not allowed to be pulled to enter the fun category.

Many spectators are not interested in the show birds because you can’t get up close and personal, since they are roped off from the general public. Whenever I held a fun show, the room was packed to full capacity. I had several categories available – Most talkative, best trick, most colorful, friendliest and best dancer to name of few of the categories. It was fun for the children to enter their pet birds, who might not have had a proper show cage or who were not in the best of feather. My birds were always rough housing so their feathers were always out of place, but they could talk and dance.

The non bird owners loved to come and view this portion of the show. Even Petey, my paralyzed amazon, could dance if you held him by the beak. He loved being in the spotlight. Extra ribbons were always ordered, so in addition to 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes, each participant received an attendance ribbon. This always made the kids feel special.


Your raffle table is your biggest money maker. I used to start my show meetings in March of each year, with the show being in September. I would secure volunteers and we would mail out requests to over 100 prospective donators. Half of the businesses will be out of business, so there will be a lot of returns, but you must persevere. I would contact local pet stores, the big food companies, such as Kaytee, Roudybush, 8 in 1, Zoogen, Lafeber, and the local avian vets.

Many of the vets were more than happy to donate a free vet visit, excluding lab and x-ray costs. The large companies would send a donation in exchange for free advertising in the show journal. Local pet stores would be happy to donate gift certificates. King’s Cages donated a cage each year. In exchange I would give King’s complimentary advertising in our newsletter. Rich King has always been generous when it comes to helping the birds.

A good source of raffle prizes is to ask each vendor that you secure, to make a donation. In your application to the vendor, ask the vendor if he would like to donate by sending ahead or at the day of the show. By having this information beforehand, you can compile a thank you page in the show journal, listing each donator and specific prize donated, such as Parrots of the World: Cage & Bird or Tager’s Auto Supply:Jumper Cables.

It’s important to get all your club members involved. If each member makes just one contact of a friend, employer, or store owner, you can accumulate a nice selection of prizes. I found that having non bird related prizes was a great success. Most parrot owners have a car and would benefit from a free oil change.

I also had a 50/50 at each show, with an AM and PM drawing. You need someone with an outgoing personality and a loud voice for this job. Our 50/50 person would wear a large hat, walking around with a roll of tickets, yelling “Get your 50/50 tickets”, besides making frequent announcements on the intercom. Each winner would split the proceeds in half, receiving half the money collected while the club received the other half. It’s also a great money maker to have at each of your club’s monthly meetings .

I also held a raffle, in which I would have several prizes available, such as a TV, cordless phone or Boom Box. I would have a thousand booklets printed up by May of each year. I found that the cost of 1000 was only $10 more than the cost of 500 booklets, so it paid to have 1000 made, even if they didn’t get sold. I passed the booklets out at each meeting, encouraging members to sell to friends, coworkers and neighbors. Each member would have to sign out a number of booklets and turn in the corresponding amount of money. This insured that no one could enter tickets that were not paid for. Our raffle table could make up to $3000 at a good show.

And remember… Publicize, Publicize, Publicize! You won’t be successful if no one knows about your event.

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