2017 Festival of Machines shatters previous attendance record

More than 10,800 people attended .this year’s Festival of Machines at Conner Prairie, smashing the previous record of the four-year festival of 6,200 people.

By Ephraim Rudolph
The fourth year of Conner Prairie’s Festival of Machines is in the books – indeed, the record books, for its record attendance. The two-day, weekend festival Sept. 16-17 drew 10,809 guests. By comparison, about 6,200 people attended last year.

Membership sales were strong as well – 149 new members signed up Saturday and 133 on Sunday for a total of 282 new memberships.

In a preview story published on Conner Prairie’s blog, Program Manager Gail Brown said that with the good weekend weather forecast and the addition of new machines, attendance numbers might double from last year. They almost did.

A family poses for a photograph inside a U.S. Army helicopter at the 2017 Festival of Machines at Conner Prairie.

“I didn’t realize we would almost match last year’s total number on just Saturday,” Brown said. “We were so busy right off the bat that traffic on Allisonville Road was backed up 20 blocks in either direction.”

Festival of Machines was launched in 2014 when Brown and the events and programs team decided to combine past museum showcases for vintage steam-powered vehicles and classic cars.

This year, more guests were able to explore more transportation history than ever before.

“It went really well. Exhibitors were extremely happy and very impressed with the size of crowd and the organization and implementation of the event,” Brown said. “Seeing kids walk in through the front gate, pointing at whatever caught their fancy and then running to it while their parents try to keep up – to me, that’s a sign of success.”

Many exhibitors were already brainstorming about how to make their exhibits bigger and better for next year at the festival, Brown said.

“Everybody stepped up to make sure that our guests had the best experience they could,” he said. “It’s a learning thing – you enjoy the success and you plan for next year. If nothing else, you just want to be able to see those happy faces, those happy kids and to let people have a good time.”