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That’s a Wrap!

It was great to gather with so many fair friends and family at WFA Fired Up 2016. Visit the Convention wrap website for fun photos and access to presentation materials.

Convention Preparation

We’re Fired Up to see you in Anaheim, Jan. 3-6, 2016! Here’s what’s happening around the office:

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We had a great time visiting Las Vegas for the International Association of Fairs & Expositions Convention. Here are some highlights:

11012762_10153712634565119_9108814976608564386_nNewly-elected IAFE President Marla Calico receives congratulations while stopping by the WFA Board of Directors meeting in Las Vegas. She officially begins Jan. 1, 2016. Jim Tucker, current IAFE President, will be featured as the opening keynote at WFA Convention to talk about his unique time in the industry.

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Meet Your Barham Award Winner

unnamedBrander Enterprises has been recognized by WFA and their peers with this year’s Barham Award. The company officially incorporated in 2008, but began with the Texas Donut Stand in 1987 operated by Sil and Carol Brander. Their son Rich and his wife Teresa bought the business, which Rich had been working at for a decade at that point, in 1999, expanding in 2004 with the purchase of Brander’s Candy Land Floss stands and the conversion of a stand in order to offer Mini Donuts.
Mini is not a word usually heard at a Texas Donut stand. Texas Donuts, including the most popular Maple Bacon Texas Donut, are approximately eight inches in diameter and have their own unique taste, made fresh throughout the day.

Since purchasing the business more than 15 years ago, Rich and Teresa have expanded its reputation and its activity. They continually update their graphics with enticing photos of new food items, and update the menu to include trendy fair food creations and updated classics (such as Deep Fried Candy bars, Mini Donut Sundaes, FireBall Whisky-infused Donuts, Cherry Poprock Donut, and Caramel Coconut Samoa Donut).
Rich and Teresa have also invested in technological infrastructure and tightened up routing. Learn more about what this second generation business has accomplished, as well as whether the third generation is ready to take over the Donut helm, in the upcoming Fair Dealer Convention Issue.

WFA will recognize the Branders and other award winners at the Industry Awards Celebration on Tuesday, January 5th, 6:30 – 9 p.m.

Hall of Fame 2015: George Soares

GSoaresThe fair has been a constant in George Soares’ life. He showed cattle as a youth and later received a WFA scholarship for $500 in the 60s to continue his education. Without that scholarship, he may not have been able to continue his schooling and become the advocate for the fair industry that he is today. “When you come from humble beginnings and an organization like WFA steps up and provides this envoy of the scholarship during a challenging time with limited resources, it’s really an opportunity.”
Professionally, he had WFA as a client, with Kahn, Soares & Conway serving as the Association’s representation and advocate. “The fair industry has been a continuum in one way or another since those early days,” said Soares. “It was the fair industry when I was a teenager, Western Fairs when I’m in college, then WFA as a client – It’s part of my DNA.”
Soares was “shocked, honored and humbled, all at the same time,” upon hearing that he would join the ranks of those in the WFA Hall of Fame. Having looked at the list of previous inductees, Soares found a bit of irony in the experience and familiarity with many of the names. “There’s Lou Merrill, who I knew, and who was ‘the guy’ in those early days and put the fair industry on the map, then Julian McFee who was the president at Cal Poly when I was a student there. Then I saw some of my classmates – my roommates, even – on the list. With George and Bryan Davey. And of course Bates Bowers who I knew for years” as a friend, client and neighbor. “I knew they were in the Hall of Fame, but going down the list it causes me to stop and reminisce about how I first met many of the people in the Hall of Fame.”
“When you’re young and impressionable you look at people who hold those kind of positions and it’s a bit motivating,” said Soares. Now it’s Soares’ turn to be the motivator. Part of that is through his political work on behalf of fairgrounds. Legislative work often happens behind the scenes but makes a very visible impact in the form of funding and preventing or creating laws that shape the industry.
“It seems like the industry is capable of working through and continuing whatever issues arise, and
we have to be thankful for that because the grounds provide such opportunity in communities for young kids to show animals and a place for people with emergencies,” said Soares. “I think fairs certainly aren’t underappreciated by people who go to fairs, but sometimes underappreciated by the larger community because people are so busy that they just go to the fair and have a good time. They don’t appreciate what a fair is doing throughout the year for the community.”
Though Soares considers his work and the work of his firm as the advocate of Western Fairs vital, he gives much of the credit to the industry itself. The foundation of effective advocacy is the industry itself. The advocate creates opportunities for clients to tell their own stories, with the explanations and passions coming from those closest to it.
“The fair industry is understanding and embracing of that, fortunately,” said Soares. “We would not be able to do our job for Western Fairs is WFA wasn’t so willing to make themselves available at the drop of a hat.” The fair network throughout the state can capitalize on the opportunities of fairs dealing with and building vital relationships with local officials.
Over the years the issues have been many and varied, ranging from the more recent funding cut,
to previous legislation regarding food and beverage operations and seasonal workers.
“Fairs are worth the fight, that’s for sure,” he added. “The issues are always tough with Western Fairs because there’s competing interest. But if I have to go to war with and for someone, then I want it to be with Western Fairs. I’ll take that any day.”

Hall of Fame 2015: Tim Fennell

12274213_10153691763970119_776191196300457827_nTim Fennell has been a constant supporter of the industry since he began his time with Del Mar Fairgrounds in 1993. From supporting smaller fairs financially to sending staff to other fairgrounds
during disasters, he’s committed to simply doing what’s right. “If there’s a position where you can help another, then that’s what you do,” said Fennell. He’s an active participant in his own fair – from joining the PBR Rodeo Clowns during bull riding to trying new attractions first – and neighboring events, showing up at other fairs in progress as a resource or just to have a look around.
Fennell began his career in facility management in 1976, with fairground management taking center stage in 1992. While in San Diego for a convention, he was sitting with his sons up on the hill overlooking Del Mar Fairgrounds and the ocean opening day of the races and mentioned, ‘now wouldn’t that be a great thing to be involved in.’ Six short months later, the universe provided and Fennell assumed the role of CEO, March 1, 2013. “It all just fell into place.”
During his time at the fair he has had many adventures, largely brought by his willingness to jump into every activity related to or involved with the fair. From dressing up as a KISS rocker during a promotion to rappelling down one of the grounds’ largest buildings, Fennell is the first (or maybe second) to do it all. He’s even swam with sharks and parachuted down to the grounds with the flying Elvis’.
What stands out most about these actions is that he doesn’t necessarily do them because he thinks
he should or because it’s expected, he does them because he’s genuinely interested in and excited
about the fair. As he puts it, “you don’t have to do it, but you gotta do the fun stuff.”
When it comes to participation in the industry, Fennell is the definition of a servant-leader. He is
continuously behind the scenes providing support to other fairs and fair staff. “Part of the job of being a CEO or in a position that I’m in is that you’re a mentor. You mentor other managers and other people, share the expertise and share the knowledge.” It’s not a one-way street. “Whatever I might have shared I’ve gotten back ten-fold. I learn new things every day.”
Many fair managers share a common memory: walking around checking on their grounds and – all of a sudden – there’s Tim Fennell, just enjoying the fair and be there as a resource if wanted, especially during times of struggle.
“I’m a strong believer in helping the little guy. If we can help in any way, shape or form, I want to do it. I just think it’s the right thing to do.” ” Fennell said. “If there’s a disaster and you can help,, but you don’t, then shame on you.”
Through it all, Fennell maintains that he is just one part of a great team. “After I got off the floor (from hearing that I’d be inducted into the Hall of Fame), I was honored and humbled. It’s very unexpected but very much appreciated. It’s a team effort – any awards or recognition that comes to me is a direct reflection of the great team we have in place.

Make Your Voice Heard with Committee Service

WFA President-elect Barbara Quaid will be officially assuming her role at Convention, but is already taking an active role. One of her first tasks is to solidify and appoint new members to WFA Committees. You can affect change in the industry by participating in committees. Serving on committees allows participants to be more involved in and gain more knowledge of the fair industry, benefiting not only the individual but also the industry and Western Fairs Association.

Current standing committees:
  • Professional Development
    • Curates educational content and programming for Convention.
  • Leadership Development
    • Supports current industry leaders and the development of future leaders.
  • Industry Standards
    • Develops and maintains industry-wide codes of conduct.
  • Showcase Committee
    • Helps in the selection of Showcase entertainment.
  • Achievement Awards
    • Recognizes excellence in the industry.
  • Blue Ribbon Development Team
    • Through various channels including raffles and the Blue Ribbon Foundation Auction and Silent Auction (donate an item here!), the development team assists WFA’s non-profit arm to offer Convention internships to students interested in the fair business, college scholarships to children in fair industry families, and bringing compelling educational programming including the WFA Convention Keynote.

Which one (or several) sounds like a good fit for you?


Email incoming WFA President Barbara Quaid of Ventura County Fair or WFA’s Liz Waxstein with your request to join or remain on a committee. Additionally, committees will meet at Convention on Tuesday, January 5,  5:15 – 6 p.m. to report on the past year’s work and plan for the future. Stop by to learn more about specific committees and get more information about participating.

Support the Blue Ribbon Foundation

You may have seen this form in the last couple issues of the Fair Dealer. Your support with items and experiences is invaluable in creating exciting auction offerings.

Some of the great donations we’ve already received include limited edition fine art prints, an opportunity to spend the afternoon at Pacific Animal Productions Ranch with Karla Majewski and the ‘girls’ Lily and MoJo, and a one-of-a-kind Mickey Mouse painting by L.A.-native and Sacramento transplant David Garibaldi, who has been featured on America’s Got Talent.

Continue to help us grow the auction by donating online here or sending in this form! Your donations help the Blue Ribbon Foundation provide educational scholarships for fair industry families, bring interns to WFA Convention, and provide incredible keynotes and informative sessions at events each year. The Silent Auction and the WFA Convention Live Auction are the largest fundraisers to champion year-round BRF programs.

Donate!                                     Bid!                                          Buy!

We appreciate your generous support of the industry.

Service Member Alert – WFA Board Election Opportunity

Western Fairs offers Service Members several important service opportunities including service as a member of the WFA Board of Directors. WFA Directors serve three-year terms and, as a Board, oversee all of the association’s programs and services. The WFA Board meets 3-4 times a year, often by conference call with limited travel expense reimbursement funds available, and participates in monthly conference calls for executive director updates from WFA.

Interested in service as a WFA Director?

There is an open seat and the attached form  will guide you through the process. Simple version? You must be a current member and, not from the Entertainment Division (the two seated Directors, Ken McMeans & Karla Majewski – are Entertainment Division members; let’s share the power!). Use the attached form to recruit 3 members to nominate you and you’re in the running!

Nominations close November 10. If there is more than one nominee, a mail ballot will be sent to all Service Members and will be due back November 30.


Openings in Service Member Divisions

WFA also elects leaders for each of our five Service Member Divisions. This year, the following division seats are up.

  • Entertainment
  • Carnival


The process is very similar. Complete and submit this form to make your nomination known. Nominations are due by November 10 and, should it go to a mail-in vote, ballots will be due by November 30.

Celebrating You: 2015 Merrill Recipient

12079499_10153620135160119_6526128626237050195_nThe Big Fresno Fair got a big surprise this morning in the form of WFA Exec. Dir. Stephen Chambers stopping by with cookies and a banner to congratulate the fair on being a Merrill Award Recipient. Deputy GM Stacy Rianda and CEO John Alkire posed for a photo with their Merrill banner.

12122808_10153630664135119_6835800118986559345_nWe stopped by The Big Fresno Fair museum and spotted the WFA booth, too. Check it out!