Breaking News
More () »

Longtime CEO of the Iowa State Fair Gary Slater announces retirement

The fair has experienced record attendance in recent years under Slater's leadership. Most recently, the fair marked an all-time one-day attendance record in 2022.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Editor's Note: The above video is from Aug. 2022, at the end of the 2022 Iowa State Fair. 

Gary Slater, CEO of the Iowa State Fair, is retiring after 21 years in the position. 

"It has been an honor of a lifetime to lead the Iowa State Fair as its CEO and Manager for more than twenty years," Slater said in a statement. "I am very proud that the Iowa State Fair is in a strong position to succeed."

Throughout his time as CEO, Slater has made a large impact on the event.

Several renovations and improvements, including the Grandstand renovations and the Susan Knapp Amphitheater, occurred under his direction. 

The fair has experienced record attendance in recent years. Most recently, the fair marked an all-time one-day attendance record in 2022.

"Gary has led the Fair through unprecedented times and brought about extraordinary improvements during his tenure," Iowa State Fair Board President Tennie Carlson said in a statement. "From building renovations, to new programs and entertainment, which helped build to annual attendance consistently exceeding than 1 million Fairgoers, Gary never wavered in his passion to make the Iowa State Fair the Iowa treasure we all know and love today."

Slater has overseen the Iowa State Fair as CEO and manager since 2001. Prior to his role, he worked in leadership positions for other large-scale events, including the Missouri State Fair and the World Pork Expo. 

In addition to overseeing the Iowa State Fair, Slater has long been active in the Des Moines community. He has served on the Board for Dowling Catholic High School and regularly attends community meetings. 

In 2012, Slater served as Chairman of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE). More recently, Slater served as chair of Catch Des Moines and received an IAFE Hall of Fame award in 2021. 

In his retirement, Slater plans to spend time with his wife, Mary, and their three children. 

"Without question, it will be difficult for me to step away from the Fair and the people I love, but I am looking forward to enjoying more quality time with my family," Slater said.

The Iowa State Fair Board will share more information on who will replace Slater as CEO in the weeks ahead.

Local 5 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.

Before You Leave, Check This Out