How Wi-Fi Transformed Oklahoma’s State Fair



  • State Fair Park in Oklahoma City teamed up with Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, to provide high-speed Wi-Fi to an estimated 2.2 million visitors each year

How state fair attendees connect smartphones to funnel cakes via networking and mobile payment systems

If you're not a regular participant, a state fair might conjure up visions of a simpler time when this country was still largely an agrarian nation and rural areas were untouched by technology. 

Not anymore. Now it's common to see participants toting a corn dog in one hand and a smartphone in the other. Taking note of this consumer trend, State Fair Park in Oklahoma City last year upgraded its Wi-Fi system to accommodate smartphone-toting customers and exhibitors who are increasingly relying on Internet-based technologies such as completing credit card transactions with Square. 

Doubling down on Wi-Fi is also smart because younger generations appear to be over-indexing for smartphone use. A 2015 comScore report found smartphone penetration among 18-24 year-old consumers was 85 percent, versus 49 percet for consumers over 65.

Until last year, State Fair Park employed a patchwork of wireless vendors to cover its 435 acres. "We had kind of a piecemeal system and it just got unmanageable," says Jason Eddy, VP of IT for the organization. "We wanted to provide a better service for our customers." 

In 2015, State Fair Park, which covers about 435 acres and 28 buildings, contracted with Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company to set up a network, which employs indoor and outdoor access points and mobility controllers to provide high-speed Wi-Fi to an estimated 2.2 million visitors each year. The State Fair event itself covers about 190 acres of the park’s overall property. 

App for navigation

In addition to providing Wi-Fi, State Fair Park also offers a free app using Aruba's Meridian Mobile App platform that, among other things, provides a map of the park. 

"That app is designed to be a good source of information for people at State Fair Park," Eddy says. 

The organization had considered offering free Wi-Fi for people who downloaded the app and is considering bringing advertising to it as well. Scott Munz, VP of marketing for State Fair Park, says, "We're crawling before we walk and are just learning how to monetize it." 


Different Wi-Fi needs

There is one area in which State Fair Park provides free bandwidth, but mostly it is a paid service. For consumers, the fee is $5 for six hours. Exhibitors, including equestrians who often stay at the park for days and even weeks on end, pay $15 per day. For them, the Wi-Fi is a necessity.

"They're using it to pay bills and so their kids can complete their homework," says Eddy. "It's basically a home away from home when they're here for the shows." Day users, by contrast, are using the Wi-Fi mostly for social media, including snapping pics and posting them on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

"Everybody wants to be social and what better place to be social than at the fair?" says Munz. The Oklahoma State Fair helps to encourage that activity with a Twitter "Tweasure Hunt" in which participants are challenged to find treasures by following clues on Twitter.

However, the park's biggest priority is making sure vendors are able to get solid connections.

"Because we're so active and do so many events throughout the year, we need to make sure that the exhibitors are covered," says Munz. "So many shows here are relying on vendor and exhibitor participation."


Now your customers can get what they need anytime, anywhere. To read about Aruba (a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company)s flexible and scalable wireless solutions at gigabit speeds, CLICK HERE.