On February 11th I had the privilege of speaking at the Annual Meeting of the York County Agricultural Society for the first time as CEO of the York Exposition Center. For this month’s blog post I’m providing the written copy of the presentation which identifies five key areas that we will focus on moving forward.
It is hard to believe that it’s been six months since my wife and I moved to York County and even harder to believe that it’s been ten months since we first visited to interview for the position of CEO. The opportunity that is in front of me, and you as a Board, is tremendous for the York Fair and the York Exposition Center.
As many of you have heard me say, I am a “Fair Fanatic”. I love all things Fair. However, I’m also very much supportive of the non-fair business which provides us with a significant chunk of our operating budget each year. The Fair and Non-Fair business here go hand in hand. We host hundreds of Non-Fair events to provide us with the capital needed to invest each year in the production of the Fair. We produce the Fair each year and use the revenue to sustain our operation for the Non-Fair events through the year. The two are enmeshed and depend on each other.
With that said, most of you here this evening are long time supporters of the York Fair and you are here tonight to hear more about what is happening with the Fair. Over the past six months I have realized that the challenges are many here. But I’ve developed a plan to lead this Fair to new heights and to continue to produce not only the best fair in Pennsylvania, but one of the best fairs in the nation.
We will accomplish this together by following the five priorities:
- We will work to increase the educational component of the annual York Fair to teach children and the public about Agriculture. We will focus on field to table messages on where food comes from by highlighting traditional and new agricultural practices. For 2019 we are relocating the Ag Education Center from Heritage Hall to Memorial Hall West as we expand and increase offerings in this vitally important area. We are currently working on ways to increase the visibility and involvement of 4-H and young people. For any fair to sustain itself, it must build around the youth of its time.
As part of the relocation of the Ag Education Center, we will relocate our Veterans into Heritage Hall which will provide an increased exhibit space to recognize and showcase these outstanding men and women for their service to our country. We will always remember the sacrifices made by our veterans from the time this Fair was founded in 1765 until the present.
- We are working to upgrade the entertainment lineup at the Grandstand both in terms of quality of acts and number of acts. Make no mistake, the concert business is tough to make money on. However, research does show that people will buy tickets IF they are affordably prices and for acts that they want to see. Our goal is to always have a concert pay for itself with ticket sales. However, there is also the factor of driving gate traffic and creating a “wow factor” in terms of pre-fair publicity. We must generate and create excitement in our communities if we want a public “buy in” to our fair.
- We are working to build bridges within the community with prominent groups and individuals. This form of marketing and relationship building takes time. However, the dividends will pay off big time in the future as we cultivate relationships with local municipalities, various civic clubs and organizations, educational groups along with local and state leaders. We are at a point where we need to be “community minded” and be a solid corporate partner with these groups and individuals. Doing so will create an awareness of how vital the York Exposition Center and York Fair is to this community.
- We are working to secure grants from local, state and federal sources to assist in upgrades to our facility. I believe that the York Expo Center, positioned in the heart of West Manchester Township and West York Borough, can be the center of any redevelopment efforts for both communities and perhaps even position ourselves as the leader of a resurgence of our communities.
As a first step towards this we are working with local veterans to raise funds to restore and repair the 13 plaques that are located at our gates across the grounds. We will have more information on this in the near future but my hope is that it will only be the beginning of improving our “curb appeal” which is truly our first impression of anyone visiting our facility.
- We will promote and protect the rich history and tradition that is the York Fair and become more involved with the Pennsylvania Association of Fairs and the International Association of Fairs and Expositions. We need to be competing for awards among our peer fairs. We should be offering our experience and knowledge to assist fairs across the nation by having team members or board members who are open to sharing their expertise to others. How can we be the best fair in the state or the nation if we are not even so recognized among our peers? We must lead the way and once we’ve re-established ourselves as a leading fair among our peers we can expect the public to follow suit.
In closing, I would be remiss if I did not mention the vote that was taken last fall which will change the dates of the York Fair from September to July in 2020. As I said on the night of the vote, it is my obligation to you as a Board and to those who attend the York Fair to carry forward the great tradition that is the York Fair, improve on many of the traditions we currently have, revive some traditions that may have been lost and begin new traditions as we transition to July in 2020. While the concept of hosting a fair in late July may seem foreign to many, let me assure you that we are already hard at work looking at new layouts, new entertainment options and a re-branding for the 2020 York Fair that will make it bigger than it’s ever been.
I leave you with this quote by John F Kennedy: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”
Working together we will take the York Far and the York Expo Center to heights before never seen. I appreciate and am grateful for the privilege to be the CEO here and I look forward to working with all of you to see what heights we can achieve.
Until April, may all your days be Fair days!
York Fair/York Expo Center