New Fair CEO - Jeremy Parsons
Coming from the Clay County Fair, Jeremy Parsons became the new CEO of the Iowa State Fair in 2023.
[Scott Siepker] I'd like you to greet the CEO and Manager of the Iowa State Fair, Jeremy Parsons. Come on down!
How has it been so far, becoming the new grand Poobah of the Iowa State Fair?
[Jeremy Parsons] It's been a great experience so far. It started on March 6.
Like many Iowa kids, growing up here at the fair, attending with my family. I worked here through high school and college. It's great to be back in this role for sure.
Well, it's kind of a fascinating story. There was this project of, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" And so, I love the Iowa State Fair. I assumed somebody had to be in charge of it. How does that work? So the letter went off to Marion Lucas, who is the CEO of the fair at the time. He responded with, "Here's what I do for a living." I gave my school presentation, but he also said, "Next year, come meet me at the fair, you can really see what I do."
[Marion Lucas] There's a lot of involvement. It's not just, as most people think, you work 30 days for the 11-day fair. It's a big business.
[Jeremy] So I had the opportunity to do that as a 10, 11, 12-year-old. That continued every year until I turned 17 and a job opportunity was presented to me by Marion to be here in the summer in the special events office. And that really started several years of being here through high school, college, even my first few years of teaching school. So it was a great summer gig for a long time, for sure.
You can attend a lot of state fairs and maybe the agriculture influence or sphere is not as big at that fair as it is at the Iowa State Fair. A lot of fairs really have kind of lost some of that homegrown feel. I think of the competitions at Pioneer Hall or the Bill Riley Talent Search. That's something that keeps the Iowa State Fair unique, is the fact that all of Iowa is represented here somehow. It's the anticipation of everything building. Just kind of managing all that. Again, being there as a resource for the staff and then the board and really everyone involved with the fair to put on the best possible event.
[Jeremy] I'm glad you're here. I'm really proud and honored to be with the Iowa State Fair.
[Concessionaire] Good to see you.
[Jeremy] Good to be here.
I think, first of all, there's a tremendous staff here at the Iowa State Fair. Nearly 70 full-time employees. Then that number expands to close to 200 throughout the summer. Then we add another 1,400 at the fair. So you know, 1,600 employees. So obviously, managing people is a lot of what I do and the great staff that puts on the fair.
[Scott Siepker] Let's hear it for Jeremy, everybody. I'm going to hand the microphone over to you, you take it away.
[Jeremy] I really think the job of the CEO is to serve as caretaker for the fair. I use that word caretaker because the Iowa State Fair has existed for nearly 175 years. It's hopefully going to exist for hundreds of years after me. So there's been people in my role before, people in my role after. But it's my job right now to take care of it, to take care of it for right now. And so that's really, I think, the job of the CEO is to protect this great Iowa institution. And protecting it means preserving the traditions of the fair. But that also means making those changes as Iowa continues to change. So I just get to take care of it for a few years. Then down the road, somebody else will come in after me.