Richard Persons, CEO of the Lake County Fair, will oversee operations at the Dixon May Fair this spring, thanks to a cost-sharing arrangement between the two fairgrounds agencies. Courtesy photo

Richard Persons, CEO of the Lake County Fair, will oversee operations at the Dixon May Fair this spring, thanks to a cost-sharing arrangement between the two fairgrounds agencies. Courtesy photo

Fairs + Festivals

Dixon May Fair welcomes interim CEO

By From page A3 | February 23, 2012

The Dixon May Fair has a new interim chief executive officer.

Earlier this month, the board of directors for the Lake County Fair approved an agreement with the Dixon May Fair to provide management services for the 137th annual Dixon May Fair.

Lake County CEO Richard Persons will be in Dixon two to three days a week to provide managerial leadership through Dixon’s annual event in May. He will oversee the May Fair’s entire four-day event, scheduled for May 10-13, and then return full-time to his post in Lake County to prepare for that fair’s Aug. 30-Sept. 2 run.

The Dixon May Fair has been without a chief executive officer since September, when former manager Jack Murphy left his post to pursue other opportunities out of state. Due to budget cuts and continued financial uncertainty from the state level, the May Fair’s board of directors opted to not permanently fill the CEO position.

Instead, the directors took over management while they worked on an agreement with the Lake County Fair, which has a similar operations budget, fairgrounds size and staff level as the May Fair.

Persons, who has been the CEO of the Lake County Fair since November 1996, also brings with him prior knowledge and experience in Solano County and Dixon. He served as the deputy CEO of the Solano County Fair from 1990 to 1996, and assisted May Fair managers on several occasions.

“With all the state regulations, and Richard is already so familiar with the state regulations and Solano County, we thought this would be a great, great fit,” said Tom Raycraft, president of the May Fair’s board of directors.

“We got it going in a great direction, but you want to make sure you comply with all the state regulations that apply to the fair. We needed someone who knew what was going on, and we felt Rich was by far one of the best people available.”

The agreement between the Dixon May Fair’s 36th agricultural district and the Lake County Fair’s 49th agricultural district specifies a maximum of 42 days of work between February and the end of May.

The May Fair will reimburse the Lake County Fair for 100 percent of Persons’ salary, benefits and retirement for each day he spends in Dixon, and also will pay all travel and other costs associated with the arrangement. If all 42 days in the agreement are utilized, the total cost to the May Fair will be $27,300.

The two fair boards will discuss the agreement following the May Fair’s run, and if it is determined to be successful, a long-term contract may be possible, which would result in a cost savings to both fairgrounds.

“The timing with Dixon is perfect,” said Persons, who said this time of year is typically slower for the Lake County Fair than it would be in June or July. “Besides the obvious financial benefits for each fair, this arrangement also allows me to see how things are done at another fairgrounds, and to help them with my knowledge of what works well here (in Lake County).”

Unless the state finds a way to fund the fairground facilities it owns, Persons believes there probably will be more cost-sharing arrangements like the agreement between the May Fair and Lake County Fair in the future. Fairgrounds throughout California already have made many operational changes to deal with the loss of state funding.

Raycraft shared similar thoughts.

“A lot of fairs are in very dire financial straits,” he said. “There are about 19 or 20 fairs in the state that are in severe financial trouble and might be closing. We’re fortunate that because of our community support, we’re in good standing right now. We’re taking a good, hard look at all of our costs. We want to make sure we are around for another 137 years.”

Persons, who lives in Lakeport with his wife, began his tenure with the Dixon May Fair two weeks ago.

“He’s done more than expected already,” Raycraft said. “He’s like a breath of fresh air.”

Special to The Enterprise

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