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Merrill Award

The Merrill Award, named in honor of Western Fairs Association Founder Louis Merrill, is given for those entries that clearly demonstrate innovation, vision, and excellence.

We are currently accepting nominations for the 2018 Merrill Award. Please complete the below form and email it to the WFA office


Nominations close November 16, 2018

The 2018 Merrill Award Finalists will be presenting their projects during the Leadership Luncheon January 23, 2019; tickets go on sale August 28



2017 Merrill Award Winners

New Mexico State Fair

New Mexico State Fair

Autism Awareness Sensory Station

Recognizing that the fair offers an abundance of sounds, sights and activities, the New Mexico State Fair created the Sensory Station to provide a caliming, relaxed area for children with special needs who may feel overwhelmed by all of the excitement. Consulting with the New Mexico Autism Society (NMAS), the Fair took a section of an air-conditioned building, removed several lighting fixtures, placed black tar paper on the windows for privacy, and created ten 'rooms' with pipe and dark maroon drape. Each room served a purpose, focusing on touch, sight, hearing, solitude, family time, coloring or quiet. Thanks to their partnership with NMAS, the Fair was able to ensure the Station was staffed with a minimum of two people at a time by engaging outside organizations to be "Provider of the Day".
San Diego County Fair

San Diego County Fair

New Citizen Inclusion Program

The city of San Diego holds monthly ceremonies awarding US citizenship to 1,500-5,000 legal residents.To help these community members celebrate, the San Diego County Fair (with permission from US Citizenship & Immigration Services) set up a booth at the ceremony and gave away two complimentary fair admission tickets to some 4,000 new citizens. 3,295 of the approximately 8,000 tickets given out were redeemed, and fair staff received compliments from new citizens who heralded the fair as a new family tradition.

2017 Merrill Award Finalists

Alameda County Fairgrounds

Alameda County Fairgrounds

Digital Marketing Program

Taking advantage of the digital revolution, the Alameda County Fairgrounds embraced social media and online marketing across a variety of platforms to reach over 3 million potential fairgoers. Their efforts led to a 77% increase in online carnival wristband sales, 90% of their Wine & Craft Beer Festivals' tickets purchased in advance online, and 10 of 19 concerts sold out in advance. Using digital marketing also allowed the Fairgrounds to access their community's diverse cultural base, including Asian and Latino communities.
Marin County Fair

Marin County Fair

Pervasive Use of Theme

The 2017 Marin County Fair celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love with their theme Let the Funshine In! Hearkening back to the spirit of 1967, the Fair brought back two bands that performed at the Magic Mountain Music Festival on local Mount Tamalpais fifty years ago, hosted a 5,500 sqft 'Fantasy Fair' museum showcasing the Festival's posters, film footage, photos and a liquid Light Show. Fairgoers participated in Summer of Love POETree, Peace Love & Origami, and competitions with Tie-Dye, Play-Doh, Macrame, Bicycle Wheel Decorating, Tin Crafts, Spin Art, Tangle Art, and Kaleidoscope (Psychedelic, Abstract and Pop Art). From publicity to competitive entries and from entertainment to exhibits, fair staff and fairgoers alike truly Let the Funshine In!
Plumas-Sierra County Fair

Plumas-Sierra County Fair


Combining the two most active communities in Plumas and Sierra Communities, the 2017 Plumas-Sierra County Fair brought arts and agriculture together with their fair-long on-grounds artist community: "Artopolis". With artists camping on the grounds all week, they competed in a week-long mural contest, bringing agriculture to life on 8'x8' murals as fairgoers looked on. Prior to the fair, a local artist traveled to the counties' schools and helped each school create a portion of a mural that became the focus of "Artopolis". While at the fair, children participated in a daily art program including art with leather, watercolors, and even fish scales.


Past Merrill Award Winners

2017 - New Mexico State Fair • San Diego County Fair
2016 - Nevada County Fair • OC Fair & Event Center • Big Fresno Fair
2015 - Marin County Fair
2014 - Del Norte County Fair • Big Fresno Fair
2013 - Calgary Stampede • Washington County Fair
2012 - California Mid-State Fair • Grand National Rodeo • Monterey County Fair • San Benito County Fair • Santa Barbara County Fair • Ventura County Fair
2011 - Big Fresno Fair

2010 - Alameda County Fair
2009 - California Mid-State Fair
2008 - Alameda County Fair • Marin County Fair
2007 - Los Angeles County Fair • Marin County Fair
2006 - Big Fresno Fair • Minnesota State Fair
2005 - Calgary Stampede • San Diego County Fair
2004 - Antelope Valley Fair • Salinas Valley Fair
2003 - Redwood Acres Fair
2002 - Orange County Fair • Tulelake-Butte Valley Fair
2001 - Los Angeles County Fair • Western Washington Fair

2000 - Nadine Lowery • Kern County Fair
1999 - Western Washington Fair
1998 - Calgary Stampede • Marin County Fair
1997 - Del Mar Fair
1996 - California State Fair
1995 - Marin County Fair
1994 - California State Fair • Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
1993 - Calgary Stampede • Napa Valley Exposition • Orange County Fair
1992 - Merced County Fair • School Involvement Fair • Calgary Stampede
1991 - Western Fair

1990 - Sam Abbott
1989 - Orange County Fair • Festival at the Lake
1987 - Tulare County Fair • Colorado River Country Fair • California State Fair
1986 - New Mexico State Fair • Edmonton Northlands
1985 - Orange County Fair • Ventura County Fair • Sonoma County Fair • Los Angeles County Fair
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