Indiana State Fair makes management changes

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana State Fair Commission on Thursday announced management changes spurred by last summer's deadly stage rigging collapse, including the retirement of a longtime employee who was noted in a report about the accident.

The other moves include the hiring of a new chief operating officer and a new director of safety and security for the fairgrounds. They follow commission members' vote last month to make management changes recommended by consultants who investigated the Aug. 13 disaster that killed seven people and injured dozens more.

Those consultants found that the stage rigging that toppled onto a crowd awaiting a concert by the country duo Sugarland didn't meet industry safety standards and that the fair's emergency plan was inadequate and resulted in confusion about who was in charge.

Officials on Thursday quietly announced the retirement of fairgrounds facilities manager Dave Hummel, who was noted in a report that criticized confusion among fair officials over their responsibilities. A news release said Hummel's retirement was "part of restructuring state fair staff."

As facilities manager, Hummel was in charge of building maintenance and event services such as concessions, admissions and parking, commission spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland said. Those duties would have included the grandstand where the Sugarland concert was to be held.

The Associated Press was unable to reach Hummel for comment Thursday. His home phone number was not in published listings, and an office number was disconnected.

McFarland said she did not believe Hummel was forced out. "He wanted to retire at this point. My understanding is that Dave has been considering retiring for some time," she told the AP. She said Hummel had worked for the fair for three decades or more.

But she also said all of the organizational changes came in response to the investigations of the accident.

A report by emergency preparation experts from Washington-based Witt Associates criticized "a lack of oversight or responsibility for the ISFC's contracts with its contractors," including the contract with the company that owned and built the stage rigging that later collapsed. The report said Hummel and other fair officials tried to pin responsibility for the contract on each other during interviews a month after the disaster.

The report also said that Hummel's position had authority over fair security, and that while he had "heard" of the fair's existing emergency response plan, he "was not aware of his position's specific responsibilities in the plan."

Officials also announced Thursday that David Shaw would start work May 21 as chief operating officer for the fairgrounds, overseeing day-to-day operations. Shaw said his "job one" would be to "go to school" on consultants' reports that recommended ways to improve safety at the fair.

Putting Shaw's plan for improving safety into place will be the job of Jessie Olvera, the fair's new director of safety and security. Olvera previously worked as a training and exercise coordinator for what is now the Indianapolis Division of Homeland Security, and helped the city develop and implement its comprehensive emergency management plan, officials said. Commission Chairman Andre Lacy said Olvera would also supervise safety-related employee training and public safety.

The state fair this year "will be the safest it's ever been. ... I guarantee that," Olvera told the commission during Thursday's meeting.

Shaw, a Noblesville native and Ball State University graduate, has previously managed several entertainment venues, including the 36,600-seat Alpine Valley Music Theatre near Milwaukee and the 28,500-seat First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre near Chicago. He also will oversee the renovation of the Pepsi Coliseum.

Lacy said one of Shaw's most important tasks will be to develop an emergency response protocol for various events and venues at the fairgrounds. Investigators concluded that the fair's existing protocol was unclear and resulted in confusion about who was in charge.

McFarland said the final decision to order an evacuation would be up to the chief operating officer.

Shaw will report to the fair's executive director, Cindy Hoye, who's been criticized for not evacuating concert fans ahead of severe weather. Lacy said Hoye will remain in charge of "vision" and strategy for the fair.

McFarland said Shaw would be paid $95,000 a year, while Olvera would receive a $58,000 salary.

Lacy said Hummel would be replaced by Ray Allison, who had been the fair's director of safety and security.


  • really??
    Then why don't YOU jump in to make things better?! AND what is YOUR training that justifies you to criticize?
  • Dave Hummel
    What did Dave Hummel have to do with the outdoor stage that collapsed? Nothing. I suspect he just won't have a pro shop to operate for 2 years, so he won't be getting a paycheck.
  • Scape Goat
    The Witt report talks about Cindy Hoye's lack of response, not some subordinate.

    The true hero is the state trooper who made two efforts to evacuate and had to responded to the disaster after Hoye ignored him.

    Independent Assessment of the Indiana State Fair Collapse Presentation

  • Wow, only in government
    Fairgrounds facilities manager Dave Hummel is out, but the state fair's executive director, Cindy Hoye is still there???

    Don't think the stage construction would have mattered if everyone was evacuated sooner like the governor's family.
    • Top 2
      The top 2 catastrophes caused by human negligence in the past 50 years in Indiana were caused by the Indiana State Fair Board's stupidity. The first was on 10/31/1963 when a big part of the Coliseum blew up. Then the Sugarland debacle. The Fair Board is and always has been a Mafia-style group that exists to line the pockets of their friends.

      Post a comment to this story

      We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
      You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
      Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
      No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
      We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

      Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

      Sponsored by

      facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

      Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
      Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
      Subscribe to IBJ
      1. I think the poster was being sarcastic and only posting or making fun of what is usually posted on here about anything being built in BR or d'town for that matter.

      2. Great news IRL fans: TURBO the IMS sanctioned movie about slugs running the Indy 500 has caught the Securities and Exchange Commission because Dreamworks had to take a $132MILLION write down...because the movie was such a flop. See, the Indy/IMS magic soiled another pair of drawers. Bwahahahahahaha! How's CARTOWN doing? HAHAHAHA...Indy is for losers.

      3. So disappointed in WIBC. This is the last straw to lose a good local morning program. I used to be able to rely on WIBC to give me good local information, news, weather and traffic on my 45 minute commute.Two incidents when I needed local, accurate information regarding severe weather were the first signs I could not now rely on WIBC. I work weekend 12 hour nights for a downtown hospital. This past winter when we had the worst snowfall in my 50 years of life, I came home on a Sunday morning, went to sleep (because I was to go back in Sunday night for another 12 hour shift), and woke up around 1 p.m. to a house with no electricity. I keep an old battery powered radio around and turned on WIBC to see what was going on with the winter storm and the roads and the power outage. Sigh. Only policital stuff. Not even a break in to update on the winter storm warning. The second weather incident occurred when I was driving home during a severe thunderstorm a few months ago. I had already gotten a call from my husband that a tornado warning was just southwest of where I had been. I turned to WIBC to find out what direction the storm was headed so I could figure out a route home, only to find Rush on the air, and again, no breaking away from this stupidity to give me information. Thank God for my phone, which gave me the warning that I was driving in an area where a tornado was seen. Thanks for nothing WIBC. Good luck to you, Steve! We need more of you and not the politics of hatred that WIBC wants to shove at us. Good thing I have Satellite radio.

      4. I read the retail roundup article and tried Burritos and Beers tonight. I'm glad I did, for the food was great. Fresh authentic Mexican food. Great seasoning on the carne asada. A must try!!! Thanks for sharing.

      5. John, unfortunately CTRWD wants to put the tank(s) right next to a nature preserve and at the southern entrance to Carmel off of Keystone. Not exactly the kind of message you want to send to residents and visitors (come see our tanks as you enter our city and we build stuff in nature preserves...