We have a booth at our county fair - and we have characters roaming the midway. Our cost? zero, nada, zilch (well except for the cost of coupons, the booth itself, paying the actors, food, drinks ...).
The Alameda County Fair sees about 30,000 people a day and is open for 20 days.
Our fair loves us, of course it helps that our haunt is on the fairgrounds One of the benefits of spending those tens of thousands of dollars pay in rent. We rent 3 acres for the haunt and 2 acres for our new corn maze.
At this year's fair, we started with a really small walk through, more curio than haunt, charging a couple of bucks. Closed it after a week because it was taking too much labor away from the primary goal of coupons distribution.
Our booth is right next to the main stage exit with two concerts a night. So we not only get the patrons from the show but get to hobnob with the has-been or want-to-be bands. Actually got some characters on stage for Blue Oyster Cult, Tower of Power and Foghat. Of course most of the characters didn't know who the bands were - kids nowadays!
The daytime crew is simply in haunt tshirts. Lots of families with strollers and they aren't in the mood to be approached by characters. The night crew is several people in tshirts and 3 or 4 characters. Tshirts give the coupons and characters do what characters do: create a spectacle and photo ops.
We cannot do coupons outside our immediate area.
We are in an area called 'sponsor alley'. Basically this area is for vendors that contribute something (usually money) to the fairgrounds. Tire company, cell phones services, 7-11, etc.
So never say never