The IAFE presented its prestigious Hall of Fame awards today during its annual Convention & Trade Show, taking place Nov. 28-Dec. 1, 2021, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. For the first time in the association's history, two people received the award in the same year: Jim Sinclair of the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul and Gary Slater of the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. The awards were presented during the General Session. The Hall of Fame Award, given annually, is presented to individuals for distinguished achievement in exposition management.
A native of Chippewa Falls, Wis., Jim Sinclair began his career in the exposition industry with the Northern Wisconsin State Fair (Chippewa Falls) at the age of 15, where he continued to work until after graduation from college at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire in 1973.
In February of 1975, Sinclair was hired by the Minnesota State Fair as an administrative assistant and in ensuing years was promoted through the fair’s employee ranks to his current position as deputy general manager.
During his 40-plus-year tenure at the Minnesota State Fair, Sinclair has had numerous management responsibilities and undertaken multiple program and operational initiatives on behalf of the exposition, including management of the fair's concession, exhibit, and attraction operations; administration of non-fair events and facility utilization; and oversight of the exposition’s Sales Division, Facilities, Purchasing, and Events Groups.
Sinclair has held the lead role in research, development, implementation, administration, and management of the Minnesota State Fair’s independent carnival midway initiated in 1995. In addition, he has been responsible for development of the exposition’s percentage license fee programs for attractions, food/beverage, novelty, game, and souvenir concessions; concession privilege formulas for entertainer merchandise sales; concession/exhibit public liability insurance programs; recycling/sanitation programs; as well as several concession/exhibit aesthetic, thematic, and operation enhancement initiatives.
Long active in the IAFE, Sinclair has played an active role as chair and in service on several IAFE committees. He is a Certified Fair Executive and 2012 graduate of the IAFE Institute of Fair Management. He also served as the IAFE Zone 4 director in 1991-92 and as chair of the association in 2011. Sinclair was also a 2017 Showmen’s League of America Hall of Honor recipient.
Gary Slater hails from the small Missouri town of Eolia, where he was raised on a 600-acre crop and livestock farm. After graduating from the University of Missouri, Slater began his career as a livestock field man. He then joined the Missouri State Fair as a livestock supervisor, where he spent five years.
Slater then joined the Iowa State Fair, where he was charged with planning the special events, free entertainment, and booking the facilities for off-season use. After five years, he left for the National Pork Producers Council to serve as manager of the World Pork Expo. Slater managed the World Pork Expo for six years, holding the event in both Des Moines at the Iowa State Fairgrounds and in Indianapolis at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Knowing that his first love was fairs, Slater received the opportunity to return to Missouri in 1997 and began managing the Missouri State Fair. He spent four years in a rebuilding mode, helping to restore the Missouri State Fair to physical and financial success.
In April of 2001, Slater accepted the position of manager and CEO of the Iowa State Fair. He states that ever since leaving the Iowa State Fair in 1991, his passion had been to return as manager.
In 2012, Slater served as chair of the IAFE. He is an IAFE Certified Fair Executive.
Slater and his wife Mary have three children: Madeline, Ali, and Andrew.
The International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE), based in Springfield, Mo., is a voluntary, nonprofit corporation, serving state, provincial, regional, and county agricultural fairs, shows, exhibitions, and expositions. Its associate members include state and provincial associations of fairs, non-agricultural expositions and festivals, associations, corporations, and individuals engaged in providing products and services to its members, all of whom are interested in the improvement of fairs, shows, expositions, and allied fields.
Contact: IAFE Director of Communications Rebekah Lee at email@example.com or (800) 516-0313.