Oct 14, 2022 - News

Iowa State Fair CEO Gary Slater looking forward to retirement

Gary Slater, Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair CEO Gary Slater. Photo courtesy of the Iowa State Fair

Over his 21-year career as the CEO of the Iowa State Fair — Gary Slater has seen it all.

  • He's shaken hands former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He's helped book talent like Slipknot and Blake Shelton. And he succeeded in bringing baby animals closer to millions of people with the construction of the Paul Knapp Animal Learning Center.

What's happening: We asked him for a few of his memories of the Iowa State Fair.

🙌 His retirement decision: As Slater reaches his 60s, he told Axios he wants to enjoy his time with his wife and family while both he — and the fair — are doing well.

😷 His biggest challenge: The pandemic. Financially, it forced Slater and the fair board to consider unprecedented questions, including whether they would lose more money canceling it or having no one show up.

💵 A funny memory: When Obama visited the fair along with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The former president opened his wallet to pay for his ticket and realized — he had no money, Slater told Axios.

  • "That's okay, Mr. President, I'll buy," Vilsack said.

What's next: Don't expect to see him in an RV at the campgrounds — "I didn't marry a person that loves to camp," Slater said. He'll definitely be back at the fair, but this time, just to enjoy it.


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