After 18 years of faithful service to the Hillsdale County Fairgrounds, home to “The Most Popular Fair on Earth,” manager Scott Dow is stepping down.
Dow said he is retiring to take care of himself, after fighting for his health over the past few years. Mark Williams, who formerly worked in the investor side of business, will be taking his place. Williams said he applied for the position because he was looking for something completely different. Williams will be the 15th manager of the Hillsdale County Fairgrounds.
President of the Fair Board Tom Richards, who worked closely with Dow throughout his years as manager, said he was “devastated” when he heard the news.
“When Scott told me he was stepping down, I said two things to him,” Richards said, “as president, I’m devastated, but as your friend, you’re doing the right thing.”
Reflecting on his time as manager of the fair, Dow believes some of the greatest accomplishments during his time as manager were the tremendous amount of improvements to the facilities, and the growth of a teamwork approach.
“None of it was accomplished by myself or even because I was the manager,” Dow said. “It wasn’t one person who made that happen. We were able to accomplish all of these things because of the dedicated people that we have worked with.”
Dow said that one of the most challenging aspects of his time as manager was generating revenue to maintain the 37 fairground buildings. The Hillsdale County Fair is part of the 541c non-profit Hillsdale County Agricultural Society, and is not county-funded or city-funded. In order to fund the fairgrounds, Dow and the fair board have had to promote what they do in a variety of ways.
“We have a treasure here,” Dow said, “and it is important to preserve it.”
Dow’s 18 years as manager has taught him several things, but above all, he learned patience.
“I met people from all walks of life with different interests and agendas, and I had to learn to be patient and work with them in order to pull all of those interests together and look at the whole. That’s really what the fair is all about,” Dow said.
Richards said that under Dow’s selfless management and excellent leadership, the fair has grown. He’s sure Williams will continue to follow in Dow’s footsteps and uphold the beauty and tradition of the Hillsdale County Fair.
“The fair has a great tradition and history. It is very unique and it’s a different experience in today’s day and age. It’s also very successful and running well, and I’d like to keep it that way,” Williams said.
Moving forward, Richards and Williams are looking to expand the use of the fairgrounds.
“It’s too good of a place to be left empty for months at a time,” Richards said.
The fair board is also eagerly seeking ways to partner with Hillsdale College, and the board is planning to set up a booth at the Hillsdale College Source in the fall.
Over the next few months, Dow plans on finishing various fair projects and making himself available to Williams. He hopes that as they move forward, Williams and the rest of their team will continue to provide energy and enthusiasm for the fair.
“There needs to constantly be a willingness to change while maintaining the traditions that make the fair what it is,” Dow said.
As Dow steps back and Williams takes his place, the fair board remains optimistic about the transition. Dow’s commitment to the fair and its traditions were invaluable, and his sacrificial leadership impacted the Hillsdale County Fairgrounds in innumerable ways.
“I’ve worked hard to pattern myself after Scott,” Richards said, “He is a good role model in every sense of the word — as a manager, and as a friend.”