IBJNews

LEADING QUESTIONS: State Fair's boss plans for big bash

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about the latest developments in their industries and the habits that lead to success.

Cindy Hoye, 54, grew up on Indianapolis’ north side and within about 10 minutes of the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Despite her utterly suburban surroundings, she developed a keen interest in agriculture, bolstered by visits to an uncle's 90-acre farm on the southeast side.



“I think I was one of five kids at North Central High School that was in 4-H,” Hoye said. “There weren’t many of us.”

As a youngster, she raised rabbits in her family’s garage and spent many summers participating in the Indiana State Fair as a 4-H member. Today, she is the executive director of the Indiana State Fair Commission, which oversees the annual fair as well as the infrastructure and all year-round activities on the sprawling grounds.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand that this is a $25 million business,” said Hoye, who served as the fairgrounds’ marketing director before being appointed the commission's executive director in 2004. “We’re talking about almost a million people during the fair, but then there’s another million people year-round. We never close our gates.

“Twenty-five percent of our revenue comes from the state, and 75 percent we earn ourselves and we have to look at all of the opportunities that either come knocking on the door to us or that we knock on doors to open up.”

For now, the focus is on the fair, the 17-day celebration of livestock, produce, midway games and deep-fried concessions that will run this year from Aug. 5-21. In 2010, the event generated $11.9 in revenue for the commission and attracted 952,000 visitors.

The current incarnation of the fair bears marks of Hoye’s influence. She pushed for expanding the fair from 12 to 17 days, which took effect in 2009 in what was originally planned as a three-year trial. Attendance jumped to 973,902 that year, a 13-percent increase from 859,621 in 2008.

Fair officials have since scheduled the 2012 event as a 17-day fair as well. “Most of the people within the fair family like the 17-day format, and so the nod right now is that we’ll keep the format,” Hoye said. “But each year we’ll take a look at it and ask, ‘How did it work this year?’”

Hoye also has reemphasized the fairgrounds’ mission of agricultural education. Her initiatives have included instituting a program that spotlights a different Indiana commodity during the fair each year. The 2011 theme is “Year of Soybeans.”

In the video at top, Hoye discusses her suburban roots in 4-H and on the fairgrounds, the creative-thinking skills needed to excel at her current position, and how her role shifts during the fair to that of the event’s unofficial “mayor,” managing the needs of a makeshift nation of visitors and exhibitors. She also reveals a lesson learned when she tried to institute the organization’s first official business plan without significant input from the departments and parties involved.

In the video below, Hoye addresses several issues directly related to the fair, including keeping it relevant for modern audiences increasingly alienated from agriculture, maintaining the 17-day format, and decompressing after the cows go home and the gates finally close.




 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • "Corner Office"
    Fortunately for those of us involved in the Agriculture, we have Cindy Hoye sharing her wisdom well beyond her "Corner Office" by devoting lots of time with other Fairs around the Country and expressing the important mission Fairs have in educating the public on Agriculture. Her years of involvement as an Industry leader,with the International Association Fairs and Expositions, (the "IAFE") have been a benefit to all....Many Thanks!!
  • Indiana State Fair
    One-hundred years ago, over 80% of Indiana residents lived and worked in rural communities. Today, less than 3% of our population is directly involved in Indiana agriculture but 100% of the people can enjoy the Indiana State Fair. Under Cindy Hoye’s leadership, the Fair (and the Fairgrounds) have become something else that’s great about Indiana. Cindy and her team work year-round to make sure that there is something for everyone at the State Fair and that everyone is welcome.
  • Cindy Hoye is the best!
    What a terrific ambassador for the State Fair and the State of Indiana!

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
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
ADVERTISEMENT

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 never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

ADVERTISEMENT