This is a very exciting time for the State Fair of Texas and for our home, Fair Park. The State Fair has enjoyed back-to-back, record-breaking years, and our team is hard at work planning a great 2016 State Fair to ensure that this momentum is maintained. Meanwhile, Fair Park stands at the brink of a watershed moment that could transform the park as we know it.
First, I would like to address the Great State Fair of Texas, what we do, where we’re going, and the purpose of our organization. To most people, the State Fair of Texas represents a great place for family entertainment for 24 days in the fall. Fried foods, exhilarating rides, great music, college football, Big Tex, the list goes on-and-on. But that’s not where the State Fair of Texas stops.
The State Fair of Texas is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and two years ago we adopted a new Mission for the State Fair: “The State Fair of Texas celebrates all things Texan by promoting agriculture, education, and community involvement through quality entertainment in a family-friendly environment.”
In other words, “Let’s celebrate the great state of Texas, and let’s have a meaningful, impactful purpose.”
We have made great progress over the years in the areas of “quality entertainment” and “family-friendly environment,” although we never stop looking for ways to improve. Just as importantly, over the past year, we have been taking a long look at how we can enhance activities that focus on “our three pillars” (agriculture, education, and community Involvement) and make us stronger in those areas through new programs and new ideas. For example, last year, we debuted a new State Fair-themed education curriculum that we developed along with a local organization named Big Thought as a way to reach outside the fairgrounds and into the community to make a difference and touch 1.8 million students and teachers that take part in our school ticketing program. Last year’s program focused on grades 4-8, and we’re proud to say that we will expand the program this year with curriculum suited to grades 9-12.
We’re also actively meeting with community leaders around Fair Park to talk about what we can do to help the immediate neighborhood and make a positive impact on the lives of our neighbors. In addition, it’s also an exciting time in our Livestock area as construction of the new Briscoe Carpenter Livestock Center continues. Once completed, this complex will provide a great opportunity for us to grow our agricultural and educational footprint, as well as provide the City of Dallas with a state-of-the-art building that can be rented out for events on a year-round basis.
As I like to say to our team, our goal is to make the State Fair of Texas name synonymous with “Great Community Partner” and we will accomplish this. This is not new to the State Fair because we’ve been giving back to Fair Park, students, and the community for years through scholarships, jobs, reinvesting in Fair Park, and other community support. But, there are ample opportunities for us to take the “giving back” mantra to a whole new level.
As for the future of our home since 1886, Fair Park, an important decision by our city is quickly approaching regarding the future of the park. We continue to publicly support the Mayor’s Fair Park Task Force Plan as the way forward in transforming Fair Park. The recommendations in the plan address many people’s concerns about the lack of green space at Fair Park by calling for park space along the Robert B. Cullum side of the park that would be more than three-times the size of Dallas’ popular Klyde Warren Park. The plan would also provide a governance structure with much-needed funding to properly market and program Fair Park. Although parts of the plan could pose challenges to the Fair’s operation, we want what is best for Fair Park, and we believe that the plan would still allow us to stage the quality event that our State Fair visitors expect and deserve. The Mayor’s choice of Walt Humann to lead the formation of the 501(c)(3) Fair Park Texas Foundation, which would oversee the Park, is an excellent choice. Walt is a man of great integrity who has served this city faithfully in many civic roles over the years. He has a passion for Fair Park and for the surrounding neighborhood, as shown with his work on the successful Jubilee Park project. Walt is the man for the job.
The passing of the Fair Park Task Force recommendations and the approval of the new Fair Park Texas Foundation by the Park Board and the Dallas City Council (hopefully this May) are critical to the future of Fair Park and the State Fair of Texas. As you may have heard, there have been plans floated around by some State Fair critics that have called for everything from the State Fair leaving Fair Park to accepting a greatly-reduced and fair-damaging footprint. Throughout the process, we’ve had a lot of generous friends and fairgoers reach out to ask how they can help save the State Fair to make it possible for their kids and grandchildren to enjoy as they have. The bottom line is that the Dallas City Council must ultimately vote to pass the Mayor’s Fair Park Task Force Plan with Walt Humann as the leader of the new foundation, and they must commit to provide the funding necessary to make the plan a success.
Fair Park has been our home for 130 years, and we want it to be our home forever. As a friend of the State Fair, I want to thank you for your continued support. Our team recognizes that we have a responsibility to continuously improve the State Fair for our loyal fairgoers. We also recognize the privilege of working for a great historic institution like the State Fair of Texas, and our role as stewards to ensure that the State Fair will continue to thrive for future generations.
We look forward to seeing you at this year’s State Fair, September 30-October 23, as we focus on “Celebrating Texas Agriculture.”