New fair director learns the business from the ground up
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Jaime Parr’s journey with the Nebraska State Fair has taken her from the front counter to the head office — and she’s covered a lot of ground in between.
Parr, who was appointed executive director of the Nebraska State Fair on Friday, Dec. 16, is as Nebraskan as the fair itself. Growing up in Fremont, she graduated from Fremont High School and remains a member of St. Timothy Lutheran Church.
Parr earned an associate’s degree in accounting from Southeast Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Doane College.
While still a student at Doane, she began working for the fair as a seasonal employee in 1998.
“I started at the front counter as an entry clerk for the Competitive Exhibits Departments,” Parr said, “helping exhibitors sign up to compete in Ag Products, Bee Culture, Beer and Wine, Christmas Trees, Education, Fine Arts, Foods, Horticulture, Photography Quilts and Needlework.”
After her first fair, Parr became the full-time, year-round receptionist and accounts payable clerk. That’s when she really caught the state fair bug.
“The variety of events and activities, the pleasant and dedicated demeanor of the people, the historical buildings, the lights and sounds, all came together to create a perfect balance,” she said. “That front counter in the administration office in Lincoln was endearing and a good place to foster love of an organization.”
Within a couple of years, Parr was promoted to space rental manager and began forming more in-depth relationships with vendors and concessionaires. She was also a part of the “Tradition With a Twist” campaign to draw attention to the major repairs and updates needed at State Fair Park in Lincoln.
“The beautiful but deteriorating campus needed renovations to bring it up to code with ADA access and major overhauls to utilities, roofs, sidewalks, foot paths and roads,” she said.
After that campaign, Parr left the fair for four years to work as a recruiter for over-the-road truck drivers, but she was back in 2008 and helped host the final fair in Lincoln in 2009. She was also part of a small team who helped move the fair to Grand Island.
“It was an amazing experience and an honor to be a part of both, that last state fair in Lincoln and that first state fair in Grand Island,” she said.
SEVERAL HATS ON
In Grand Island, Parr served as space rental manager/facility director from 2010 to 2020, working with a multitude of local and national vendors, nonprofits and concessionaires.
Parr served as interim executive director in March 2020. With the help of dedicated partners, like Terry Galloway of the 1868 Foundation, she ensured that the fair’s finances were repaired, scrutinized and brought back to sound standing.
That year, she also participated in a small group that helped the Nebraska Department of Agriculture determine how county fairs and livestock shows could operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee’s suggestions allowed the state fair and the Aksarben Stock Show to take place that year.
Parr was named deputy executive director of the Nebraska State Fair in January 2021 and became interim executive director again this October after the resignation of director Bill Ogg.
Parr and her husband, David, have one daughter, Sophie. They are members of St. Pauls Lutheran Church. Parr serves as president of the Grand Island Public Library Board and vice president of the Grand Island Kiwanis Club.
She is a graduate of Leadership Tomorrow Class 36 and the Institute of Fair Management. She is also a Certified Fair Executive and was a Chamber Connector.
“One thing I’ve learned over the last 20 years, there’s no such thing as staying too long at the fair,” Parr said. “I wouldn’t trade for anything the friends I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had at the Nebraska State Fair. There truly is nothing more Nebraskan.”
The 2023 Nebraska State Fair will be from Aug. 25 through Sept. 4 in Grand Island. For more information, go to statefair.org.