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Growing in Agriculture: Success and Change for the SD State Fair

Growing in Agriculture

Success and Change for the SD State Fair



By Lucas Lentsch, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture


Friday, October 3, 2014



The final numbers have been out for a few weeks, but stating the attendance number for the SD State Fair never gets old.  Attendance for the fair came in at 210,465, up 15 percent from last year’s event. 



The success didn’t just stop at breaking this goal. The amount of campers on the fairgrounds grew to 2,037 over the five day fair, an increase of 20 percent over 2013.  Vending locations were sold out once again with over 500 spaces filled.  Total grandstand tickets sold was up by 26 percent.  Just over 22,550 tickets were sold to the grandstand concert entertainment series.



At the center of all this success lies Jerome Hertel, SD State Fair manager.  Jerome came to the SD State Fair in March of 2008, when the fair was still rising up from some very rocky times.  The fair had been seeing improved attendances and better financial pictures but it needed to establish a consistent track record of improved performance, attendance, and revenues before the scrutinizing would stop. 



Since Jerome’s first year at the Fair, his efforts have increased attendance, exhibits and revenues, and maintained a consistent track record of increases every year.  Overall gate attendance has grown by 39 percent and revenues by over 30 percent since 2008. The South Dakota State Fair is now seen as a successful year-round, family friendly venue that showcases youth, achievement, agriculture and community.



After seven years of guiding and leading the State Fair, Jerome has decided to take on a new venture.  In December, his leadership will no longer be with the South Dakota State Fair, but at the Alaska State Fair as the general manager.



The South Dakota State Fair is a tradition in South Dakota that is a reflection of the state’s culture, and we are proud of the progress it has made over the past seven years with Jerome as director.



Because of his hard work and the strong team he has helped to develop at the State Fair, he is leaving the fair in a much better place than when he came.  He has worked hard to make the State Fair more self-sufficient and less dependent on funding from the state by increasing the number of off season events by over 35 percent and keeping the fairgrounds busy year round. 



One of his greatest achievements has been his involvement in the $4 million dollar Capital Campaign for the Nordby Exhibit Hall for 4-H, Youth and Community. The future of the state fair lies in keeping our youth involved and the new exhibit hall will be a showcase for 4-H and youth activities, as well as providing space for new events throughout the year.  Just over 80 percent of the funds for that building have been privately raised under Jerome’s leadership. 



Questions such as “What’s next for the State Fair?” or “How will this affect the capital campaign?” have come up quite frequently.  I am confident that the Fair will continue to be successful under new leadership and the capital campaign will not be affected by his departure.  I will commence a search process immediately to recruit our next state fair director. The State Fair staff and capital campaign committee will work hard to make sure the transition is smooth and seamless.



I know this position is crucial to the Huron community and our state, and I know we will find the right person for the position. I wish Jerome good luck and look forward to more success at our South Dakota State Fair.