As opening day of the Oklahoma State Fair arrives, a few fair executives looked back in order to truly appreciate what the 2012 fair offers.
Bill Allen remembers when it was necessary to plan ahead for towing numerous stuck vehicles out of unpaved parking lots.
Scott Munz can recall nights when band members for headliners would be “along the edges” of a crowded flatbed trailer/stage as they performed before rodeo crowds.
And Tim O'Toole thinks back to when he wondered how the change to an 11-day schedule would be received by fairgoers.
Gates open at 8 a.m. Thursday for the 2012 Oklahoma State Fair, It runs through Sept. 23.
Some fairgoers think about the rides and the food and the entertainment that awaits them. Others think of the various exhibits and competitions. But Allen, Munz and O'Toole think of all the improvements.
This is the 30th Oklahoma State Fair for Allen, vice president of State Fair Park.
“When I first started we didn't have hardly any paved parking spots, and there were puddles almost big enough for ducks,” he said. “Now we have many lots that are paved and well lit. We used to have to worry about towing a lot of cars out, and now that would be limited to a few cars.”
Munz thinks back to when a tractor would pull a flatbed trailer out into the rodeo arena. That was the stage. Conditions were snug, especially the night a country music singer had a 12-member band.
“That was interesting,” said Munz, vice president of marketing and public relations, who is beginning his 25th Oklahoma State Fair. “Now, we have all moving lights in there and the stage is lowered down from the ceiling. It's a first-class sound and light production in the arena for the concerts at the PRCA Xtreme Bulls.
“And, the same thing is true out on the Chesapeake Energy Stage. It's a safe, first-class outdoor stage.”
This is the ninth Oklahoma State Fair for O'Toole, president and CEO of Oklahoma State Fair Inc. He remembers the first one well.
“I came on in January 2004 and the board had made the decision prior to that to reduce the fair from 17 days to 11 days,” O'Toole said. “That was a learning curve for all of us.
“And we were cautiously optimistic about how the public would receive it. It's continued to grow every year and has been well-received by the public.”
Reaction is something O'Toole eagerly awaits each year.
This year, he awaits the response to Barn 4. In all, the $90 million projects include quality arenas, stalls and meeting areas, he said. Fair Park is home not only to the Oklahoma State Fair, but many state, regional, national and international equestrian shows.
“Barn 4 is the completion of our original barn and equine projects that we embarked on in 2005,” he said. “It's just part of the continuing upgrades that we've done to all of our equine and livestock facilities.
“So I'm always pleased when people get the chance to see that and experience it. We want them to see the quality of it all.”