Fairs, festivals and an emphasis that the fairgrounds serve the needs of their communities are central priorities for the new president of the Western Fair Association (WFA), Joe Anderson.
Anderson first started working fairs right out of high school, at 18 years of age, and for the past 18 years has been at his current position, CEO of the Napa Valley Exposition.
Previous to joining the fair industry, "I worked for Napa Valley Unified School District, and I also worked for an event company called Taurus Productions. When Taurus Productions closed their doors, I was looking for a stage manager position, and they happened to have an opening at the fair in Napa. When I first started working, all I did was entertainment booking, stages and exhibits. Then I started taking in more of each department until I became the Deputy General Manager."
Now as CEO, Anderson manages two Napa Valley Expo events of significant size, the annual Napa Town & Country fair and one has become one of the largest music festivals in California, BottleRock Napa Valley. This 2-day festival featured Stevie Wonder and Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2016.
In an interview with Carnival Warehouse, Anderson touched on many subjects, including the hot-button issues of H-2B visas, fair funding and marijuana legalization in California.
The fair veteran keeps things close to the vest, often avoiding the details on which the success or failure of these association initiatives depend. What is most apparent is the role he sees fairs play in both his home-state and throughout the country. "We're all looking for ways to continue providing the services our communities have come to rightfully expect from us," he said.
Founded in 1922, WFA has more than 800 members, representing fairs and festivals, and all fair-related businesses, serving the fair industry throughout the western United States and Canada, although the vast majority of the fairs are in California and Golden State issues tend to dominate much of the association's agenda. According to its website, the "primary objective of Western Fairs Association is to promote the prosperity of fairs through educational activities, training programs and legislative advocacy."
long been a proponent of the WFA. In a Meet The President statement issued
by the WFA, Anderson wrote: "I became involved with leadership at WFA because
it's important to our industry that we are able to help people step up and help
out in order to keep us moving. Not everyone really wants to do that, but I got
asked and I was very interested in it. And I love the fair industry. By
stressing the importance of WFA and motivating people to get involved, we can
continue to be there to support our members as much as we can as we work
through the issues facing our industry together."
Warehouse: What issue are you most concerned as President of the Western
Fair Association in 2017?
Joe Anderson: There are 3 major issues on our plate for 2017: (1) The
WFA transition, as we are on a search to hire a new executive director. Stephen
Chambers will be retiring after 30 great years as the leader of our
company. It will be a challenge to find someone who is as good as Stephen and
has the years of institutional knowledge in the industry. We are pleased to
have just contracted with Ralph Andersen & Associates to begin the
process. (2) Working through legislation to secure a stable funding
source for our California Fair partners and (3) Dramatically increasing
ride inspection fees and the H-2B program which allows U.S. employers or U.S.
agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to
the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs. This is of particular
interest to our service members.
JA: How is
the WFA working towards positive H-2B legislation.
CW: We're very fortunate to have Chris Lopez of RCS as the Carnival
Division Chairman on our Service Member Board, and we've been working closely
with him to see how WFA can best support our members as we work through this
CW: Did Western fairs have a good year in
JA: It was a very good year for our members and a great year for our
convention. It was one of the strongest and best attended in a long time.
CW: What are
some issues that will have the biggest impact on next year's fair season?
JA: The passage of Prop 64, in California, the Marijuana
Legalization Initiative, legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults
21 or older. It Imposes state taxes on the sales and cultivation. Provides for
industry licensing and establishes standards for marijuana products. Allows
local regulation and taxation. Affects range from shows on fairgrounds, use of
the product in public spaces, sales etc. California's adoption brings us to
four member states with legalized marijuana.
was the attitude of WFA convention attendees this year?
JA: Very positive feedback from attendees. Lots of great sessions,
some were actually too good as rooms overflowed with attendees.
problems are affecting fairs in all of the states represented by
JA: Funding seems to be the story across the board. Some states
are receiving new funding while others are fighting for the same outcome.
Regardless of state funding, we're all looking for ways to continue providing
the services our communities have come to rightfully expect from us.
the California drought officially over and what will be its
continuing impact on California fairs?
JA: Following unprecedented water conservation and plentiful winter
rain and snow, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on April 7, 2017 ended the drought
state of emergency in most of California, while maintaining water reporting
requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices, such as watering during or
right after rainfall. "This drought emergency is over, but the next
drought could be around the corner," said Governor Brown. "Conservation must
remain a way of life." Executive Order B-40-17 lifts the drought
emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne,
where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address
diminished groundwater supplies. The April 7, 2017 order also
rescinds two emergency proclamations from January and April 2014 and four
drought-related executive orders issued in 2014 and 2015. Executive Order
B-40-17 builds on actions taken in Executive Order B-37-16, which remains in
effect, to continue making water conservation a way of life in California:
is the economy in the West? Are people spending, and is consumer confidence up or
JA: 2016 was pretty strong, and I've been involved with two fairs so
far in 2017 -Colorado River County Fair and the California Mid-Winter Fair
& Fiesta - and they were good.
the economy recovering or is there still a long way to go?
JA: Many rural areas are recovering slowly, and the end of the
drought should help.
trends among WFA fairs are you watching for in 2017?
JA: Through my interactions with various fairs this year, I've
noticed a trend among marketing campaigns: a push to have communities take
ownership of their fair. There were several fairs with variations of the theme
'It's Your Fair,' and I love this for two reasons. First, we're inviting our
communities to join in on the fun and providing them with an opportunity to get
involved. Second, it demonstrates the power of language. By changing our
language from 'come visit the fair' to 'come visit your fair', we are delivering a compelling message to the community
that supports us.
are fairs changing with the times?
JA: There's really only one essential component to any fair, and
that is the unique relationship that we have with our communities. To that end,
fairs will continue to evolve to meet the needs of our communities. In recent
years, fairgrounds have served as evacuation centers during emergencies. We've
also hosted music festivals and 4-H auctions and Bingo nights. Fairs serve as a
community gathering place, and it is our responsibility to continue to provide
that service into the future.
has been the biggest - and most unexpected - change that you've seen in the
JA: Personally, when I started at the Napa Valley Exposition when I
was 18, I never would have imagined hosting an event the size of BottleRock