Sekaten: probably the biggest carnival fair in the world

So I happened to be in Yogyakarta for Prophet Mohammad SAW birthday, which is a big muslim holiday, and so I managed to catch the last night of Sekaten. This Night Market celebration is a well-preserved tradition in Yogyakarta. The North Alun-Alun Square turns into the biggest carnival fair you could imagine filled with dozens of rides and endless food kiosks and clothes/gifts stalls.

What struck me was how busy it was and how excited people were about the amusement rides, and yet the rides were very old (borderline antiques) and many of the same sorts. But for IDR10,000 (0.75USD) per ride you could find all your classics: pirate ships, carousels, trampolines, bouncing castles, small trains, big wheels, flying chairs, motorbike cylinder, water boats and even a mini-motorcycle track. And everyone was happy, from your families with young kids to your teenagers and your young adults friends/couples.

For someone in our industry it is always fascinating to see that many people and that much excitement. It’s almost daunting. Because isn’t it what we all aspire to: driving huge attendance numbers and high levels of excitement/satisfaction? So it made me thinking and wondering what learnings to take out from it.

  • Classics work: be it the fear of falling off a rocking boat, or the gentle ride with your loved one on a ferris wheel
  • Size matters: it’s because there are lines and lines of rides, stalls and kiosks everywhere (to the point it’s hard to walk) that people are attracted in the first place; they feel it’s worth it
  • Simple and affordable pricing is king: can you think of anything better than IDR10,000 per ride?
  • Don’t overthink segmentation: families, teenagers, couples, they all live together anyway so they’re happy together in a park/attraction too
  • Fun is contagious: because of the proximity of the rides (safety? oh well not so important!) people see other people have fun and they also want to have fun

These were just a few simple thoughts I wanted to share. It’s always good to go back to basics and remember how our industry started. An now a few pictures of this amazing carnival fair. Enjoy!

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