Minnesota State Fair CEO to step down after 26 years

Longtime Minnesota State Fair CEO Jerry Hammer announced Monday he will retire from his post this spring.

When he hands off the leadership role to a successor, it will end Hammer’s five-decade career with the Great Minnesota Get-Together, including 26 years as the fair’s CEO — the longest such tenure in State Fair history, according to a news release.

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve this amazing place for so long,” Hammer said in a statement. “What a great gift it is when your life’s work is bringing people together to celebrate the very best of each other. This is way more than an agricultural fair. It’s a uniquely Minnesota-style celebration of our humanity.”

Hammer first started working at the fair’s greenhouse in 1970, when he was a 15-year-old boy. He later got a full-time position with the fair in 1977, serving in communications and senior management roles before becoming CEO in 1997.

Under Hammer’s watch, the Minnesota State Fair has grown into a major economic engine for the state, attracting over a million visitors every year. The fair estimates it has an annual economic impact of $300 million.

Hammer also oversaw nearly $180 million in upgrades and expansions over the years, all done without any public funding, according to the State Fair.

In recent years, he navigated the State Fair’s cancellation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the dissolution and subsequent reinstatement of the Minnesota State Fair Police Department.

The State Fair board of managers is beginning a search process to name a successor. Hammer will be involved in finding those candidates and will stay through spring to help with the transition.