Jerry Hammer accepts the IAFE Hall of Fame award while his family looks on, including his brother Bob, sister-in-law Leanne, daughter-in-law Stephanie, son Matt, wife, Deb, daughter Laura, and son-in-law Justin. (VT Photo)

REPORTING FROM LAS VEGAS — The International Association of Fairs & Expositions honored Jerry Hammer, GM of Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, with the 2013 Hall of Fame Award. During his tenure, the fair has invested more than $100 million in capital improvements.

Hammer is one of several people and accomplishments being honored during the Dec. 8-12 conference here. Last year, just over 4,000 people attended the IAFE Convention. Registration before the show began were up 10 percent for delegates. IAFE President and CEO Jim Tucker reported that attendance for the Under-40 crowd is up 17 percent.  This year’s trade show sold out with 291 exhibitors and a waiting list.

As Hammer received his award, his wife, children with their spouses, and brother with his wife, walked out to greet him on stage.

“It’s a tradition to create a surprise, and it’s been incredibly effective,” said Hammer. He continued to say that his family is his proudest accomplishment and that he considers the staff of the Minnesota State Fair part of his family, also.

“It’s such a community effort that I feel reluctant to accept this great award for me personally, but I will very gladly accept it on behalf of everybody at Minnesota State Fair,” he added.

Hammer was one of hundreds attending this 123rd International Association of Fairs & Expositions convention and trade show which kicked off Dec. 8 at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. IAFE officially welcomed visitors in an opening session Monday, Dec. 9. 

Executive Secretary at Wisconsin Association of Fairs Jayme Buttke introduced the 2013 Executive of the Year: Gibson ‘Gib’ Gosser of the Kentucky Association of Fairs and Horse Shows. He’s been with the association for 12 years and streamlined the application process to improve memberships.

Buttke, last year’s Rising Star Award honoree, announced this year’s choice for Rising Star: Jessica Klumpp of Florence (Wis.) County Fair. Klumpp has been working at the fair in some capacity since she was 12.

The 2013 Heritage Awards were presented to five deserving individuals: Byron Anderson from Washington County Agricultural Society in Afton, Minn.; Doug Brand of Seward (Neb.) County Fair; Roger Henrichs in Beatrice, Neb.; Paul Vaassen from Iowa State Fair in Des Moines; and Allen Paulson of Clearwater Fair in Bagley, Minn.

HEARD IN THE HALLS

Catching up on news and learning from the experts is the crux of this educational business expo, and Venues Today has picked up tidbits here, there and everywhere at the two headquarters hotels. Besides IAFE, the Showmen’s League of America and Outdoor Amusement Business Assocation, the National Independent Concessionaires Association, and the International Entertainment Buyers Association host events during this conference, so the news spans the industry.

For instance:

[U+F06E]  Jim Tucker, president and CEO of IAFE, announced that the Dream Big initiative’s universal service project of a food drive resulted in more than 5 million pounds of food donated in the last 12 months. “Let’s be honest — dreaming big was the easy part,” said Tucker, who added that the success boiled down to two words: hard work. Contact: (417) 862-5771

[U+F06E] The OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., will complete an efficiency reassessment before beginning the search for a permanent CEO. Current CEO Doug Lofstrom will remain until a replacement is hired; however, he’s looking forward to getting back out on the horse trails. Contact: (714) 708-1559

[U+F06E] Ovations’ Nick Nicora is scheming to break another Guinness World Record, probably something to do with waves and surfboards. Last year he set the bar for the World’s Largest Cocktail (the ‘Calarita’) at CalExpo in Sacramento, and in 2011 he established himself as a record-breaker with the World’s Largest Hamburger at Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif. Contact: (813) 948-6900

[U+F06E]   Smash-happy Comedian Gallagher is at IAFE adding fair dates to his Last Smash tour. He’s performed in 14 Showtime specials and more than 3,000 live shows. Contact: (503) 715-7303

[U+F06E]   Sadly, attendees learned Monday that Scott Efferson, Barney Fife look-alike and impersonator, died two weeks ago. A staple at this convention, he was greatly missed.

[U+F06E]   Several fair managers have traveled overseas to Jinju City, Korea, where they have consulted on and learned from two major fairs and festivals – Agrex and Food Expo and the Lantern Festival. Chang-hee Lee, mayor of Jinju City, and Gang-Hoan Jeong, Ph.D, Paichai University, said the three-year-old Agrex and Food Expo has grown to include 287 companies from 22 countries exhibiting in 631 booths, up from seven countries and 164 booths the first year. It is held at Jinju Stadium, with six large tent structures adjacent to the stadium set up to hold up to 150 booths each. It is two-thirds funded by the government and draws 501,460 attendance in five days. Success is also ranked by business done, which included $49-million worth of contracts booked through export consultation. The main export is paprika. The 2014 Agrex & Food Expo Korea will be held Nov. 5-9. The Lantern Festival is held at the same location in October, drawing 2 million people in 11 days. During the question and answer period, options such as the viability of combining the two events were discussed. Contact: 82-55-749-2002

[U+F06E]  Several first-time exhibitors on the trade show floor included Chris Christ, World of Wonders — The Amazement Show, who has operated sideshows and thrill shows at fairs for half a century with his partner Ward Hall. They are changing things up this year, Christ said, and are here looking for some anchor tenant fairs for their 2014 route. Contact: (813) 777-8176

[U+F06E]  The National Independent Concessionaires Association (NICA) hosted a hospitality suite to introduce the new executive director, Alta Moseley, former fair manager, who said the plan is to reach out to members personally to grow the 20-year-old association by “coming-of-age and turning the page.” NICA currently has 1,200 members, Moseley said. Contact: (813) 438-8926

[U+F06E]  During a presentation by Royal Cornwall (England) Show Secretary Chris Riddle, he pointed out a cultural difference in carnivals at fairs in the U.S. and in the U.K. The attractions at the Royal Cornwall show are part of the Steam Fair and, as such, are all powered by steam. This year’s stars of the show will be a Mark 2 Spitfire fighter and a 1921 Model T Ford. Contact: 01 201 812183

[U+F06E]  Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of South Australia’s Chief Executive John Rothwell spoke about Adelaide Showground. The site made additional commitments to sustainability during a more than $33-million renovation, including the addition of a $1.37-million, 800,000-gallon storage facility to capture rain and rooftop water for use on-site since the area is prone to droughts and government water regulation. A $7.78-million grant was used to build a 1-megawatt solar system with solar panels installed over six Showground rooftops, producing 40 percent of the venue’s annual power needs.  Contact: +61 8 8210 5211

Also interviewed for this story: Jerry Hammer, (651) 288-4400