I never knew I would end up working in the fair industry. Like many others, when offered a position at the State Fair of Texas, my first question was: “What do you do the rest of the year?” I remember feeling intimidated and suffering from severe imposter syndrome because I was walking into an industry, I knew nothing about, having never attended the Fair, and not understanding what the big deal about the 55-foot-tall talking cowboy, Big Tex, was. In my defense, I was born and raised in Colombia and at the time had only lived in Dallas for two years, constantly homesick and struggling with my strong accent. Back then, I remember always keeping enough money in my account for a ticket back home because I knew one day, I would wake up and want to return to Colombia.
Little did I know what the fair industry would have in store for me. The most wonderful thing was all the women that would cross my path all along the way. I went from being a seasonal employee hired by a temp agency, to the manager of exhibits with the guidance of other strong women in the industry. Whether they know it or not, these women changed my path indefinitely with their knowledge, care, and advice.
It all started in 2013 when I worked for Summer Adventures with Denise Lumley and Ida Bennett as a seasonal HR assistant. Ms. Ida was so kind to me; I remember her going out of her way to teach me everything she knew about Fair Park and its rich history. She taught me how important it is to not just “take the time” but to “MAKE the time.” What she probably thought was a small gesture, went a very long way in my eyes, having her make the time to really guide me through the basics, even though she did not have to. She taught me that small acts of kindness go a long way in building a strong relationship and is a core attribute of a true leader and mentor. During Summer Adventures, I also had the pleasure of working directly with Denise. She had been through a couple of employees at the temp agency before I was finally hired for the job. Denise not only put my skill set to the test but also filled the room with positive energy. She is, to this day, the most organized person I have ever worked for. She taught me that everything has a place and created the foundation of how I stay on top of things, even today. When I think about these two women, the first thing that comes to mind is warmth, the kind that comes from a whole heart.
I then continued to work for Denise during the 2013 Fair, and I remember dreaming about one day being selected to work for the Fair as a full-time employee. Little did I know that dream would become a reality in the spring of 2014. After I was hired, I was trained by another strong female leader in the fair industry, Debbie Dellinger. Debbie was the director of indoor exhibits and is one of the hardest-working people I know. Her work ethic was impeccable, and she always put the Fair first in any and all decisions she made as director. She instilled in me those same qualities through leading by example, and most of what I currently do as exhibits manager comes from what I learned from Debbie.
My current supervisor, Jennifer Schuder, Senior Vice President of Marketing, is so much more than just a strong leader, she is a mentor to me. I don’t know if she is aware of how much she has helped me grow and how much it means to me to have her support. She is constantly pushing me to be better and to continue learning. I’ve been in other jobs where I never felt that kind of support. She has taught me how to conquer my self-doubt through detailed planning of my future goals and really focus on the path I want to walk down as a leader in the industry.
I cannot finish without mentioning Melanie Linnear. Melanie is an inspiration for any woman working in the fair Industry. Her commitment and dedication to her job are admirable, and she is always willing to give advice when needed. She has taught me that inclusivity, no matter how small, forges strong bonds. From making sure I’m aware of things happening in the industry, to always inviting me to have a seat at her table, Melanie has uplifted me as a woman immensely.
So here I am, almost ten years later, feeling welcomed by the fair industry, feeling changed and inspired by the future, and feeling completely at home in Dallas and with my career at the State Fair of Texas. This is why I am choosing to celebrate them this Women’s History Month. Without the influence and care of these women, I would not be where I am today. And my advice to you, if you are reading these words, is to support the women around you and lift them up in both your professional and personal life: listen, encourage, don’t interrupt when we are talking, celebrate our achievements, share your knowledge, and mentor…
Because you never know whose life you can change forever.