New Year… New CEO
Happy New Year from the York Fair and the York Expo Center!
As we begin 2019, I am excited to be the new CEO of the York Fair/York Expo Center. After arriving here last August I have spent time learning as much about the York Fair, York Expo Center and the greater York County Community as possible and I can already say that I feel very much at home here after four short months.
The next few years are going to be exciting times around here and one of the many goals I have set as CEO is to build bridges between the York Fair/York Expo Center and all facets of the community. One component of achieving this goal will be communication, and as part of that I am excited to introduce this new blog that will be updated once a month, direct from my desk.
There are many things that occur every year for the professional team of staff members and the Board members to produce a fair that is at the level of the York Fair. There are also many things that go on at the York Expo Center all year long that you may not know about. Every month I’ll write about various things that contribute to the success of the York Fair and York Expo Center in an effort to give you a behind the scenes look at how things operate, how decisions are made and what some of the processes are that keep the York Fair among one of the top fairs in the nation and that keep the York Expo Center as a driver of tourism for York County.
While this blog’s intent is not to be about me, I do think that I should tell you more about myself and my background for you to understand my experiences and the objectives I have set for the York Fair and York Expo Center.
The 2018 York Fair marked the 28th fair that I have been involved in from a managerial standpoint. Starting in 1997 I started a county wide initiative in Campbellsville, Kentucky to revive the Taylor County Fair which had not been held since 1978. I was elected as President of the Taylor County Fair Association and served in that capacity until 2002 and remained a volunteer on the Board until 2014. The Taylor County Fair won several statewide awards during that time and continues to run strong today each June.
In 2009, the Kentucky State Fair Board offered me a position in the Sponsorship and Event Marketing Department. During my time in Louisville I handled Sponsorships for the Kentucky State Fair, the North American International Livestock Exposition and the National Farm Machinery Show/Championship Tractor Pull.
Following six Kentucky State Fairs my next move was to north central Indiana in November of 2014 as the first ever General Manager of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. With over 4,000 4-H members and 800 plus adult leaders, Elkhart County has the largest 4-H program in the state of Indiana. As an event center all year long, the Fairgrounds in Goshen is 380 acres and has sixty buildings. The Fair itself attracts 250,000 visitors over 9 days and with a combination of agriculture and livestock being showcased, along with motorsports, concerts and entertainment is one of the best county fairs in the nation. During four years at Elkhart there was over $1.6 million dollars spent on improvements and facilities all keeping the facility and fair debt free.
So now, some five years later, here I am at the York Fair/York Expo Center. My hope is that I have brought with me the experience and knowledge of being a part of the Fair industry for the last 20 years. (In case you’re doing the math from 2009-2014 I was a part of both the Taylor County Fair and the Kentucky State Fair and in 2018 was part of both the Elkhart County 4-H Fair and York Fair for a total of 28 Fairs).
While telling you a few things about me is a way for you to get to know me, more than anything I want to make clear that I’m a true “fair fanatic”. Since attending my first county fair at the age of five, I have literally had the motto of “live, eat, breathe all things fair”.
One of the biggest factors in decided to accept the challenge here at York Fair is the fact that this is the Oldest Fair in America. By being America’s First Fair, the York Fair is one of the crown jewels in this industry. I respect the tradition of what the York Fair means. I also understand the loyalty of the people of York County and southern Pennsylvania to the York Fair. Nearly everyone I have met has a story about the Fair. I love hearing those stories and I love seeing the passion that exists for this fabled event.
While it is certainly true that the York Expo Center is more than the York Fair, without the Fair the Expo Center would never have existed. My belief is that we must stay true to our roots and our history. I do believe we can have a strong Fair and a strong Expo Center that can co-exist hand in hand.
In future blog posts I’ll talk more about how the York Fair and York Expo Center complement each other. I’ll address the future and what changes you are going to see at the York Fair. We will discuss traditions and how we can bring some long-lost ones back to the Fair. I envision a blog post on how concerts are booked, how we work with midway companies, the economic impact that the York Fair/York Expo Center has on the community and so much more, all with the goal of showing even the most loyal fair guest and supporter a thing or two that they previously did not know.
Our adventure begins…and until next time, may all your days be Fair days!
Bryan Blair, CEO