Amplifier Event Marketing Podcast - A Conversation With Jerry Hammer
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A Conversation With Jerry Hammer


Jerry Hammer, executive vice president and general manager of the Minnesota State Fair, has spent his working life with the “Great Minnesota Get-Together.”  Born and raised just a block from the State Fairgrounds, Hammer’s State Fair career spans 45 years. 

He started working at the fair while in high school as a summer staffer in the greenhouse, followed by a variety of full-time positions in events, media, marketing and public relations.  Hammer is currently serving his 19th year as State Fair General Manager.

In 2007, Hammer served as Chairman of the International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE).  He is also past president of the Mid-West Fairs Association and is the recipient of a variety of professional and community awards including membership in the IAFE’s Hall of Fame.  He has visited fairs and festivals throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Asia and Australia.  In addition to the IAFE, the fair has memberships in the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, Western Fairs Association, Better Business Bureau and various Twin Cities tourism and civic groups.

During Hammer’s time as general manager, the State Fair has invested more than $120 million in capital improvements and maintenance to the historic Minnesota State Fairgrounds. 

Hammer is a graduate of College of St. Thomas.  He and his wife Debby are both life-long residents of St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood in the shadow of the fairgrounds.  They have two grown, married children and four grandchildren.

Feel as if you were walking and enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of the “neighborhoods” of the Minnesota State Fair as you listen to Jerry talk about its impressive history. During its run-time each year, the equivalent of approximately 40% of the population of the State of Minnesota attends this fair! Find out how Jerry views his job as the fair’s steward and how he and his team keep it relevant and successful after over 150 years!

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Key Episode Moments: 

5:50 – Adapting and changing to give people what they are looking for is the key to success in the fair industry. It’s important to keep fairs affordable by including almost all entertainment with the admission ticket.

6:55 – An important goal of the fair is to inspire people to improve their lives in some way –Jerry knows at least 2 instances where learning something at the fair led couples to grow their families through adoption!

10:05 – The Minnesota State Fair Grounds are immense and impressive. Maintaining and improving the grounds over the years has been a large part of Jerry’s job and he is very thoughtful about it for good reasons.

22:35 – Having a team that shares his sense of responsibility and ownership of the fair, and its importance in the community, is key to Jerry’s job. He estimates that at least 75% of his time is spent talking with the people on his team to ensure success.

25:40 – Marketing is one thing that has changed tremendously during Jerry’s tenure at the fair. Media is much more fragmented with electronic and social media now playing very large roles – Jerry estimated that the fair sold $4 million of grandstand tickets via social media promotion in 2014!

28:35 – There are must-know changes that Facebook has made to prevent unpaid promotion from reaching broad audiences, thus necessitating paid advertising on its site.

30:00 -– A very unique and fascinating thing is the presence of TV news and radio stations at the Minnesota State Fair. The media feel that everyone wants to be at the fair, so they should be there, too, and this has a long history. There are 5 permanent TV stations on the grounds and more than 20 radio stations! 


The image above is the Igloo where the interview took place. This creative and unique addition to IAFE is mentioned in the podcast. 
The Amplifier is brought to you by Saffire in cooperation with IAFE, IFEA, IAVM and WFA. For more information or feedback, please contact
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