Tim 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.